Predictors of Return to Work After Anterior Cervical Discectomy

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Return to previous level of employment after surgery is important to patients. Predictors of return to work have been well described in lumbar disc surgery. However, this information cannot be generalized to the population undergoing cervical discectomy. The authors retrospectively reviewed 67 consecutive patients who underwent anterior cervical discectomy. Strict inclusion criteria were used. Baseline demographics were recorded as well as other potential predictors of postoperative return to work such as number of levels of disease, smoking history, and disability claims. Follow-up information about work status was reviewed with each patient at office visit. Forty-five patients were found eligible for the study. At a mean follow-up of 2.8 years (SD 1.4), 38% had not returned to work by 1 year. Pre-operative sick leave in this group was significantly greater than for those patients who returned to work within the year (p = 0.0014). Postoperative neck pain was more common in individuals who did not return to work after surgery (p = 0.01). Increasing age and disability claims also appeared to negatively impact the ability to return to work. Gender, type of work, smoking history, and number of levels of disc disease did not appear to have any association with postoperative return to work. The authors conclude that the duration preoperative sick leave and postoperative neck pain negatively impact postoperative work status in patients undergoing anterior cervical discectomy. Age and disability claims also influence return to work.

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