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News Symptoms following back surgery – how many residual complaints can I live with?

Most operations improve the symptoms of patients with adult curvature of the spine, but do not eliminate them completely. How much residual pain is the patient happy to live with after back surgery? What constitutes a good post-surgical result when treating spinal deformities in adults? Our research looked into these questions.

For this study, we analysed various patient questionnaires from over a thousand patients who had received treatment. Using this data, we have calculated a score that represents a satisfactory result after back surgery. For example, on a pain scale of 0 to 10 (0 = no pain; 10 = unbearable pain), a score of 3 or less was considered a good result after surgery. We determined target values with which patients would be satisfied after surgery, for example in the areas of everyday mobility or mental health.

When is back surgery successful? 

Only very few patients go on to have no symptoms after surgery. Using “symptomless” as a measure of the success of an operation would therefore be rather unrealistic. It would also be an exaggeration to rate even the slightest improvement in pain as a good result. The calculated target values of this study are therefore a compromise that is suitable for general use, determined on the basis of the responses of over a thousand patients involved. 

What does this mean for patients?  

With the help of these scores, we can calculate what percentage of our patients to date have achieved the target value. This enables us to tell our new patients what their chances are of achieving a satisfactory outcome after back surgery. 

These findings set a new benchmark for results in the field of spinal deformities in adults. In future studies on the efficacy of our treatments, we will use the scores calculated for an “acceptable level” of symptoms to define a “good therapeutic result”. 

About the study What level of symptoms are patients with adult spinal deformity prepared to live with? A cross-sectional analysis of the 12-month follow-up data from 1043 patients – PubMed (nih.gov)