Columbus, OH – The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) board of directors approved a rule June 23 discouraging surgery and opioid use in favor of conservative therapy for workers with lower back injuries.
Under BWC’s new spinal fusion rule, the agency requires those workers to first undergo at least 60 days of comprehensive conservative care before considering a surgical option. Conservative care includes physical therapy, chiropractic care and rest, anti-inflammatories, ice and other non-surgical treatments.
“Our mission is to get injured workers back to work and back to life as soon as safely possible, and our research shows that rushing to surgery may not be the best path for workers with lower back injuries,” said BWC Administrator/CEO Sarah Morrison.
The rule follows several studies of BWC data by BWC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stephen T. Woods, researchers at Case Western University School of Medicine and others that found fusion patients suffered considerably worse outcomes than non-fusion patients. Those outcomes included chronic opioid dependence, increased disability and high rates of failed back syndrome, as well as additional surgery and new psychiatric co-morbidities. One study in the journal Orthopedics found nearly 77 percent of fusion patients did not return to work within two years.