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What To Do If Your Back Surgery Is Cancelled

| | Back (Spine)

Dr. Deitch and Dr. Chris Centeno discuss what to do when your back surgery is cancelled, why it’s important, and what that means for you.



Dr. Jason Deitch

Privileged, of course, with being with Dr. Chris Centeno from Centeno-Schultz,  Regenexx practice in Colorado.

Dr. Centeno. Great to be with you here today.


Dr. Chris Centeno

Yeah. Thanks, Jason. Looking forward to talking about back surgery.


Dr. Deitch

That’s it. If you are out there wondering what do I do because my back surgery has been cancelled, that’s the conversation we’re going have right now with internationally renowned regenerative orthopedist, the father of regenerative orthopedists – who I refer to as the Elon Musk of stem cells, Dr. Chris Centeno, founder of the Regenexx Network.

Dr. Chris, you have been doing this now for over 15 years, longer than most anyone out there has been talking about stem cells and orthopedic conditions.

There are lots of people in today’s day and age, under the circumstances that we’re living in, that were scheduled for back surgery, specifically – knowing now that elective surgeries have been canceled indefinitely – knowing now that the healthcare system has dramatically changed forever – how do people, who were looking at back surgery maybe even scheduled for back surgery – how do they think about what to do under these new circumstances?


Dr. Centeno

Yeah, that’s a great question. Jason -, I’m I’m getting the echo. Sorry.


Dr. Deitch

We’re live. Let’s let’s do what we can and stay with it.


Dr. Centeno

Ok. So, I think right now, the healthcare system has changed in a huge way. Listen, we’re going to be dealing with this thing not for weeks, probably not for months, but probably for the next two years or so. And if you look at traditional back surgery – that traditional back surgery would have happened in a hospital, or a hospital associated ambulatory surgery center. And the problem with that, for a long time now, is going to be that those places are going to be virus concentrators, meaning you’ve got lots of lots of folks with Covid-19 and Coronavirus who will be coming into those facilities to get treated.

And, it’s probably best to avoid all of that for the next year or two. So if you’ve got back problems, what can you do? Well, one of the things that you should really take advantage of right now is understanding that there are other options, that there are non-surgical ways to treat your back that you’ve probably never heard of. You know, maybe you got an epidural steroid injection or some radiofrequency, and that didn’t work. So, your doctor said you need back surgery.

However, we see patients like that all day, every day, and we’re able to treat them using their own platelets or stem cells without the need for any surgery. And obviously we do that in the private practice, that’s not treating Covid-19 patients. So that’s a completely different world.


Dr. Deitch

And in some cases, a better world. You know, we do know that there’s risk associated even in the pre-quarantine days. There is risk in going into those types of circumstances.

This is a new world. Many times, you know, I think for the foreseeable future, there’s going to be a lot of people that don’t even have surgery as an option any longer. So, if somebody has been a surgical candidate, they likely have some, you know, anatomical pathology. They’ve got a diagnosis usually through some sort of imaging that says there’s a particular problem. Do you want to get into what some of those issues are and what more organic solutions are?

How do we think about this if if we had a – you know- I guess a diagnosis of some sort, or a surgeon said, you know, you’re scheduled for a few weeks out? You have a pathology. You think it’s going to be handled. All of a sudden – no!  Not doing that any longer. How do we think about this more – I guess I’ll call it, organic approach or a more natural approach – is it better? Is it worse? What’s different about it?


Dr. Centeno

Yeah, realize that the surgical approach focused on the idea that there was some structural pathology there, and the image that is put into your head is that you’ve got something pressing on a nerve and you’ve got to go in there and take that something out, or you’ve got to just bolt it all together so it doesn’t move anymore. The problem with that concept, though, is that none of it’s really very accurate. If you look at the actual research in this area, it’s more important, for example, that the nerve has certain bad chemicals around it then it is that something’s pressing on the nerve.

So, this idea that you can only fix structural things by going and cutting them out is not actually accurate. Why do I know that? Because we see it every day. We see patients, for example, with lumbar stenosis. Now, if you’d asked me 10 years ago, could we treat someone like that?

And, stenosis is where the spinal canal gets too small for the nerves. And the idea, surgically, is the doctor has to go in there and open it up. The problem is that that doesn’t really work that way. What happens is that if we can tighten down some of the ligaments, in particular, the one that pushes into the spinal canal when you’re standing, you don’t need that surgery. And what happens if you get the surgery? Not only would you be exposed to Covid-19, as we talked about, but, in addition to that, someone’s going to go in there and drop a thermonuclear bomb in your back.

They’re going to go in there and cut all sorts of important muscles out. They’re going to rip out large pieces of bone. And then, many times, they’re going to bolt it all together. And all of that, then, just puts more wear and tear above and below. None of that, in many of these cases that we see, is necessary. It’s not needed anymore in 2020.


Dr. Deitch

And many people would take that route: 1. because it tended to be covered by insurance, and 2. because they really didn’t know the science behind the outcomes.  They, in many cases, believe that they are going to be far better after a surgical procedure than, oftentimes, the science or the data in fact suggests on average. Is that accurate?


Dr. Centeno

Yeah, listen, certainly the research on back surgery shows it doesn’t work real well. Then you get into just talking to people, right? I mean, I think pretty much everyone knows somebody who knows someone who had an awful result from back surgery. So – so, yes, there’s the science does not support that back surgery works all that well. And I think we would all just know intrinsically that it’s probably not a great thing to do.

So, again, use this opportunity of the world telling you something. The universe has come in and said, “Hey, don’t get that back surgery right now because your surgeon cancelled it.” This is a great time to re-explore your options. And from the insurance standpoint, you have to realize that, at the end of the day, we’re treating some of these patients for about what their co-pay, co-insurance, and co-deductible would have been had they gotten that huge back fusion surgery.


Dr. Deitch

And, ultimately, what’s most important is that you’re able to heal through it. Get on the other side of it with improvement so that you don’t have either the loss of income or the extra costs of rehab and all that goes along with not being at your best. Let’s get into what does the new world look like. So, OK. Even if you wanted surgery in today’s day and age and for the foreseeable future, it’s probably not going to be an option for you.

What is the next, what is really not even the next best option – what is the new best option as it relates to what’s going on with people at home, with, you know, living shelter in place, or in some cases, quarantine? How do we now connect with our doctors in today’s day and age?


Dr. Centeno

Yeah. Well, what’s really nice about all of this – I mean, it’s hard to say there’s anything nice about it because it’s a crisis – there’s lots of people being injured, people dying, etc. But the shelter in place orders obviously are forcing a new way to look at how you see patients. And now that’s telemedicine. So what we offer for our patients, through the Regenexx Network, is a way for you to connect with your doctor, do the same type of new patient evaluation that you would have done, but you don’t leave your house. You do that over a phone, a tablet, your computer.

You get some videos about how to do your own low back self-exam, and you write all that down for the doctor. And that teaches you about what’s wrong with your back at a higher level than you would have known before, because, you normally go into the doctor, the doctor does his thing. You don’t know what that doctor’s really finding. Now you will by doing one of these self-exams, and then you review imaging, or the doctor can order imaging, just as the same way he would have if you were in the office.

But all of that is happening while you’re sheltering in place. So you’re finding out about these new options and what’s available for you based on what your diagnosis is, without ever having to leave your home.


Dr. Deitch

So, if you’re home, if you had a back surgery scheduled, and it was canceled, if you were considering having a back surgery, hoping you could schedule one, or if you just know your back has gotten so bad and you want to learn what natural or organic drug-free surgery – drug free and surgery free – solutions are out there for you.

Now happens to be a really good time to take advantage of this idea of Telehealth [or] Telemedicine. Have a virtual consultation with a regenerative orthopedist, a specialist who understands orthopedic conditions, which means conditions of the joints, but understands how to help the body regenerate itself and heal itself using itself – using the body to heal the body, versus, in many cases, the sometimes ineffective and often dangerous approach through drugs and surgery. Dr. Chris, any final sort of at-home ideas or closing thoughts on if your back surgery has been cancelled or if you have a back problem and you want to see if help is available from the convenience of your home – what are some final thoughts and what would you recommend that people take action on today?


Dr. Centeno

Yeah, I think the thing to take action on is, again, use this time as a way to re-evaluate your options. In addition to that, to get on with a Telemedicine exam with a Regenexx doctor.

Now we’re going to be focused on using precise image-guided injections of your platelets or stem cells to try to make sure that you don’t need that back surgery. Again, realize that that back surgery is a major deal. It’s a one way street. Once you go down that street, you can’t turn around and come back, and we don’t want you to go down that one way street. In addition, your Regenexx doctor can also work with you on things to do at home so that you can relieve some of your pain, now, so that we don’t get you hooked on narcotics.

Listen, we just went through a national opioid epidemic and we don’t want to restart that now because of these shelter in place orders. In fact, you need to use this time to make sure you don’t go down that road.


Dr. Deitch

That’s exactly it. In fact, there’s been recent articles that have said that the opioid crisis for some has gotten much worse. They’re more isolated; they’re at home – financial problems and so on. It is getting worse for people.

So the message really is reach out for help. Reach out to one of the Regenexx docs that has shared this video with you. Find out if there is a natural, holistic, organic, drug-free solution for your back problem. And we are wishing you the very best during this time.

On behalf of Dr. Chris Centeno, the Centeno-Schultz practice and the other Regenexx and Healthlink practices that are part of the Regenexx network, we tell you to be safe. Be smart. Reach out and get some help during these times. We are here to help you.

Thank you for watching.


Dr. Centeno

Stay safe, everyone!


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