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April 21, 1978

Medical News

JAMA. 1978;239(16):1597-1605. doi:10.1001/jama.1978.03280430013002

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Laminectomy the 'wrong' treatment for fracture dislocations of spine  Perhaps no natural disaster is capable of inflicting so much damage in so little time as a severe earthquake. In Guatemala City during the early morning of Feb 4, 1976, such a quake killed 25,000 people and seriously injured 60,000 more.Among the injured were 70 persons with fracture dislocations of the spine. Many of these patients received the wrong surgical treatment, according to Frederic R. Labbé, MD, professor and chairman of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Roosevelt Hospital, Guatemala City.He told the recent Dallas meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons that 37 of the patients were given laminectomies in an attempt to decompress the injured spinal cord. This should never have been done, he said; the operation made little difference in the patients' neurological status. Instead, it left them with dangerously unstable spines, was associated