What Drives Spine Surgery Dissatisfaction After A Successful Operation?

Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: December 21, 2020

Back Pain Getting Worse

It would stand to reason that after a successful spine surgery procedure and the realization that they are in less pain than they were before that a patient would be satisfied with the outcome of their operation. However, that’s not always the case. Recently, a group of researchers sought out to uncover why some patients were dissatisfied with their spine surgery even though it yielded successful results. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why these patients were dissatisfied and how surgeons can work to prevent dissatisfaction even after a successful spinal procedure.

Unhappy With Successful Spine Surgery

In the vast majority of spine surgeries, a patient’s function increases and their pain levels drop, but that doesn’t always lead to satisfaction with surgery. Researchers were curious to learn why some patients were dissatisfied with surgery even though by many measures it was considered a success.

To get a better understanding, researchers looked at data from more than 34,000 patients undergoing elective spine surgery. Patients were asked to complete assessments of their pain, disability of overall satisfaction at baseline and one year after surgery. What they found was that it wasn’t physical factors that were driving this dissatisfaction, it was psychological distress.

“We learned that patients who reported moderate or extreme psychological distress prior to surgery were more likely to report dissatisfaction with surgery at 1-year, despite having clinically relevant improvement in pain of disability,” said study co-author Kristen R. Archer, Ph.D., D.P.T.

Modifiable Factors

The good news, according to Dr. Archer, is that many modifiable factors were associated with dissatisfaction at the one-year mark. Doctors can work to control and reduce anxiety and stress in patients who are set to undergo spine surgery, as this can help drive home satisfaction after a successful surgery. Dr. Archer also mentioned that preoperative smoking status and the ability to return to work also drove satisfaction rates. She said preoperative programs to address behavioral self-management could be helpful for certain patients, and she stressed the importance of ensuring the patient has appropriate expectations about life after surgery before they go under the knife.

“Addressing patient expectations about return to work and physical activities that are important to them before surgery is critical to help patients better understand their recovery trajectory,” said Dr. Archer. “Realistic expectations may help improve patient satisfaction after surgery.”

At the end of the day, it’s important that spine surgeons practice a multidisciplinary approach to care for their patients ahead of spine surgery. It’s not just about looking at the physical ailment, the whole patient needs to be understood so that psychological and emotional components can be factored into a patient care plan. If surgeons begin focusing on the total mental and physical wellness of a patient instead of just focusing on correcting the physical ailment, we suspect that satisfaction rates will continue to climb.

This study definitely helps provide an interesting perspective on what factors influence patient satisfaction after spine surgery. For more information, or for help with your spine issue, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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