When people suffer from spine pain, their quality of life and ability to work and enjoy physical activity declines daily. Far too often, the pain can be debilitating, and many who suffer lose workdays. The effect of pain can lead to job loss, mental decline and even narcotic addiction.
People with chronic neck and back pain should not have to wait to see a spine specialist. Many Canadians choose medical tourism or spine surgery in the United States because the wait times to see a spine surgeon are only one to three weeks.
The Canadian Pain Task Force report published in 2019 estimates that one in five Canadians lives in chronic pain. Additionally, two-thirds of Canadians who reported living with chronic pain said it was moderate (52%) to severe (14%), and 50% have lived with this pain for over ten years.
Quality of life is crucial to people’s ability to work and pursue happiness in their daily lives. When access to pain-relieving treatment is limited because of the Canadian health care system, the quality of life declines dramatically. People in pain should not have to wait to be seen, evaluated and treated.
The Fraser Institute released its 2022 annual report on medical treatment wait times in Canada. Those who live in either the British Columbia or Alberta provinces experience a median wait time to be treated by a general specialist of 25 weeks in British Columbia and 33.3 weeks in Alberta. If you suffer from spine-related problems, however, the wait time from general practitioner referral to treatment with a neurosurgeon is 71 weeks in British Columbia and 48 weeks in Alberta. For an orthopedic spine surgeon, you might wait 61 weeks in Alberta and 42 weeks in British Colombia.
In British Columbia province, for the last quarter of 2022, 1,840 spinal and back cases were waiting for surgery. According to the British Columbia Wait Times website, 90% of those surgeries were completed within 49 weeks. These numbers do not include the wait time to see a specialist, only treatment after seeing the specialist. In Alberta, the numbers are similar — 90% of patients wait 50.1 weeks to complete surgical treatment.
Not all spine surgery requires immediate attention. Patients with degenerative spinal conditions with gradually increasing pain may have time to consider their treatment options. Alternatively, injuries sustained through accidents like car crashes may be severe enough to warrant emergency surgery to prevent permanent nerve damage and paralysis.
Time is also of the essence when discs or vertebrae compress the spinal nerves and cause significant pain and loss of motor function. Decompressive surgery can correct pinched nerves before they cause permanent damage. Here is a list of other risks of waiting on spine surgery:
The United States is one of the best countries for medical tourism because the average wait time to see a spine surgeon is about 15.9 days. The differences between Canada and the United States are alarming, considering the physical and mental impact chronic pain can have on patients’ daily lives. Many U.S. patients do not need a referral from their general practitioner to see a spine specialist. Unlike the U.S., the Canadian government determines appointments with specialists based on a priority and need basis instead of patient desire or willingness to pay.
At the Desert Institute of Spine Care, your wait time is one to three weeks!
In addition to incredibly long wait times in Canada, there are other reasons Canadians come to the U.S. for health care. The access to immediate care In the U.S. within two to three weeks is very appealing when suffering weeks upon months of spine pain.
Many Canadians come to the United States seeking spine surgeon expertise and ultra-minimally invasive surgery or new technology advances not offered in their hometown. In addition, Canadian patients perceive the quality of health care and the reputation of U.S. surgeons and surgical facilities to be above that of Canada.
Over the past 20 years, DISC has developed and pioneered a new category of ultra-minimally invasive spinal techniques called endoscopic spine surgery. Through a ¼ inch incision, our surgeons can selectively pinpoint and treat herniated discs, spinal stenosis and degenerative discs. This advanced technique provides pain relief, gets patients back to enjoying life faster and is truly outpatient — patients go home within two hours of surgery.
Modern technological advancements in cervical spine surgery have brought about artificial disc replacement (ADR). Removing the damaged disc and replacing it with an artificial one allows the patient to preserve motion in the neck. ADR has an overall satisfaction rate of 86%, whereas traditional disc replacement, known as anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF), has an overall satisfaction rate of 73.9%.
Not all patients suffering from neck pain are good candidates for ADR. For the appropriate patient, ADR is more suitable than traditional disc replacement surgery in the following ways:
The experts at DISC have been leaders of disc replacement research and clinical studies for over a decade. Our expert spine surgeons work with complex spine issues, even those that haven’t responded to previous surgery. Patients travel to Phoenix from all over the United States and internationally, seeking our surgeons’ expertise in minimally invasive spine care and alternatives to cervical spine fusion.
There are nonstop and connecting daily flights from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver to Phoenix, Arizona. DISC is located just 24 minutes north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.
Our professional staff can recommend local hotels offering discounts for DISC patients. We have developed a resources page for our travel patients highlighting Phoenix-area restaurants and attractions you may be interested in while visiting. Many travel to DISC and Phoenix because it is a leading vacation destination with warm average temperatures between 60 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the time of year you travel.
Canadians suffering in pain and unable to work, walk or enjoy their favorite physical activities can be seen within two weeks at DISC in Phoenix, Arizona. We offer in-person or virtual second opinions for spine surgery patients in the Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver areas and across Canada.
If you don’t have an MRI and are willing to pay cash, we can help you book an appointment with an MRI imaging company in the Phoenix, AZ, area, typically within one week of your clinic appointment. Seek a virtual second opinion today!