Comparing the Preoperative Expectations of Spinal Surgery Between Patients and Surgeons

A study in this month’s issue of Spine compared the expectations of the benefits of spine surgery between patients and their surgeons.

At the pre-operative appointment, 225 patients and their surgeons individually completed a survey that asked each to describe their “realistic” expectations about the outcome of the surgery. These outcomes included back/neck pain, leg/arm pain, usage of pain medication, and the ability to work, do household activities, or play sports.

The results of the study showed that “patients consistently had higher expectations than the surgeons,” especially in the areas of back/neck pain, leg/arm pain, and functionality (work, household activities, playing sports).

In other words, doctors and patients may different expectations about how much patients could improve from the spinal surgery.

As the patient, make sure you discuss your expectations for the surgery with your doctor prior to the procedure. Your satisfaction is likely to be higher when you and your surgeon both agree on a set of realistic expectation of how much the surgery will improve your life.

Lattig F, Fekete TF, O’Riordan D, et al. A comparison of patient and surgeon preoperative expectations of spinal surgery. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 38:1040-8.