PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to describe the associations among pain, disability and psychosocial factors preoperatively as well as 3 and 24 months later for patients who undergo first time discectomy and to analyse the predictive value of psychosocial factors on the outcome 24 months after surgery.
METHODS: Fifty-nine patients, 41 % women, with a mean age of 40 years and without comorbidities were included, of whom 56 responded to the 24-month follow-up; at that point, they were divided into patients with complaints (C, n = 36) and patients without complaints (NC, n = 20). Correlations among the pain intensity, disability and psychosocial factors were analysed preoperatively, 3 and 24 months after discectomy, and regression analyses of psychosocial factors on the outcome at 24 months were performed.
RESULTS: Psychosocial variables were weakly correlated with the pain intensity and disability preoperatively. High expectations on the return to work were predictive of both pain intensity (β = 8.0, p = 0.03) and disability (β = 9.1, p < 0.001) at 24 months. Associations between psychosocial variables and outcome variables were strengthened at the 3-month follow-up in the C group, and this association remained 24 months after surgery. Fear of movement was most strongly correlated with leg pain intensity (r (s) 0.64, p < 0.001) and the ability to decrease pain was the most correlated with disability (r (s) 0.78, p < 0.001).
CONCLUSION: Having high expectations on the return to work after surgery was the strongest predictor for a favourable outcome. Therefore, low preoperative expectations on return to work convey an important prognostic signal.
2016. Vol. 25, no 1