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Health Agencies Update
October 20, 1999

Back Pain Study

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JAMA. 1999;282(15):1415. doi:10.1001/jama.282.15.1415

A 5-year randomized trial funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases may help provide some answers for one of medicine's long-standing debates: whether patients with back pain benefit more from surgical or nonsurgical treatment. Researchers at 11 medical centers across the country will compare the two approaches in 1450 patients who have back pain due to a herniated lumbar disk, spinal stenosis, or degenerative spondylolisthesis.

The effort, which will cost more than $13.5 million, is expected to have a major impact on clinical practice and the cost of medical services for patients with these disorders. Medical care for people with severe back pain costs an estimated $30 billion to $70 billion per year.

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