When studies say that patients were satisfied with their disc replacement (or other back surgery), what does this refer to? I've had two back surgeries and may need a third. I'm not very happy about the results. How do they measure this?
Patient satisfaction may be measured and compared in studies using different standards. Many times, more than one criteria are used. Sometimes pain levels are compared before and after the operation. Often, pain and function are reported. There are some specific tests to rate disability before and after.

Patients usually use their own means of determining satisfaction. For some, pain relief is the main goal. For others, getting back to work is important. Age may make a difference in satisfaction. Younger, more active adults may expect to resume all previous work and recreational activities. Older adults may be happy to be able to independently perform activities of daily living.

Surgeons often view the success or failure of a procedure differently than a patient. The surgeon uses X-rays to look at alignment of the bones and joints as one measure. Operative time, blood loss, and wound infections may be another group of variables used to determine success versus failure. Studies often include number of days in the hospital or total cost as measures. Some patients may include these in their assessment of satisfaction, but the majority rely on pain, function, and return to work status as their main measures of success.