Laser Spine Institute Shuts Down

The Laser Spine Institute, which once ran a nationwide chain of surgery centers that specialized in “minimally invasive” spinal procedures, has abruptly ceased operations due to financial problems.

The company had four remaining surgery centers in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Scottsdale and Tampa, Florida, where it is headquartered. It recently closed three other surgery centers in an effort to control costs and restructure.

Despite “significant cost saving” in recent months, Laser Spine Institute said in a new release that it was “unable to attract the necessary financing” to continue operating while it sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. About 600 employees are affected.

"My heart goes out to our great, dedicated staff who have stuck with us through all of our adversity and worked so tirelessly to help us right the ship," said Jake Brace, Laser Spine Institute’s CEO, who was brought in last year to help restructure the company.

The company said it would contact patients slated for surgery and those in post-operative care and refer them to other medical facilities in their area. Laser Spine Institute treated patients with neck and back pain caused by spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, pinched nerves, bone spurs, herniated discs, sciatica and other chronic conditions.

Although it claimed to have 98% patient satisfaction rate, the company was plagued with dozens of malpractice lawsuits , including one by superstar wrestler Hulk Hogan, who claimed its treatments were ineffective and cost him $50 million in lost revenue. Hogan reportedly settled out of court for $10 million.

Last year the family of a Pennsylvania woman was awarded $20 million after she died hours after being discharged in 2014 from a Laser Spine Institute surgery center in Philadelphia.

A competing surgery center also sued Laser Spine Institute for offering illegal incentives to patients, such as paying for their airfare and hotel expenses, which is prohibited under Medicare guidelines. Nine surgeons told Bloomberg Businessweek that the company was doing spinal surgeries that were often unnecessary or inappropriate.

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