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A retrospective review was made of 30 patients who had failed multiple traditional surgical procedures for low-back pain, sciatic pain, or both. The most common cause of the poor results appeared to be failure of initial selection, even though all patients appeared to meet traditional indications for operative intervention. Psychosocial problems (eg, drug abuse, alcoholism, marital discord, personality disturbances) were prevalent, but were not initially recognized. Thoughtful assessment of patients being considered for initial lumbar spine surgery, which includes objective psychological testing, may reduce the incidence of unsuccessful lumbar spine surgery.