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Workers' Comp Linked to Poor Back Surgery Outcomes

Presurgical characteristics may predict outcomes in workers who undergo lumbar discectomy

TUESDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Workers' compensation patients who undergo lumbar discectomy may have a greater risk of poor outcomes than non-compensated patients, according to study findings published in the March issue of The Spine Journal.

M. Scott DeBerard, Ph.D., of Utah State University in Logan, Utah, and colleagues reviewed the presurgical biopsychosocial variables of 271 workers who underwent surgery from 1994 to 1999 and surveyed 134 of them at least two years after surgery.

In the 134 patients who were followed-up, the researchers found that 17 (12.7 percent) were disabled, and that about 25 percent of them experienced poor outcomes based on an analysis of patient satisfaction, back pain-related dysfunction and the Short-Form Health Survey-36 subscales. They also found that significant predictors of poor outcomes included older age, number of comorbid health conditions, assigned case manager, litigation and time delay from injury to surgery.

"Patients at risk for poor outcomes may be identified before surgery based on biopsychosocial characteristics often available in a patient's chart," the authors conclude. "If such higher-risk patients can be identified before surgery, an appropriate presurgical intervention consisting of patient education regarding likely outcomes and a referral to a rigorous multidisciplinary functional restoration program might lead to better outcomes and patient satisfaction associated with this procedure."

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