The Outcome of Surgery for Lumbar Disc Herniation: I. A 4-17 Years' Follow-up with Emphasis on Somatic Aspects

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Records of 575 patients operated on for the first time for lumbar disc herniation have been reviewed. Four to 17 years after the operation 371 (65%) patients answered a questionnaire on number of reoperations, working capacity, lumbar or sciatic pain as well as necessity of treatment. Of these, 255 (70%) still complained of back pain, and 83 (23%) of this group complained of constant heavy pain; 172 patients (45%) have a residual sciatica; 131 (35%) are still under some kind of treatment; 47 (14%) patients are receiving a disability pension. Repeat operations were performed in 17%. Based on the criteria given by Spine Update 1984 as related to justified or unjustified indication there was no statistical difference in long-term results concerning the above-mentioned criteria of success. The so-called justified indication for disc herniation neurosurgery does not necessarily imply a good long-term result. In the preoperative investigation, not only symptoms and neurological signs, but also the socially and personally defined career of the illness are of importance. The patients with complaints, mainly those receiving a pension, are psychologically conspicuous and show more psychopathological features as monitored by MMPI than the patients without complaints after surgery. Psychological assessment should increasingly be used in the preoperative evaluation, especially in patients who do not present an absolute indication for neurosurgical intervention.

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