I'm usually a pretty positive person. As I head into back surgery next week for spinal stenosis, how high can I set my expectations?
Usually we tend to assume that people who expect less are satisfied with less. And as a general rule, people who expect less are more easily satisfied. A recent study of patients' results after spine surgery differ depending on the type of surgery they had.
They studied two groups of lumbar spine patients. Everyone expected to improve. They hoped for less back and leg pain and numbness. They expected to walk further with fewer problems.
One group had surgery for disc herniation. The other group had surgery for spinal stenosis. The authors reported better results in the disc group despite equally positive expectations between both groups.
They aren't quite sure how to account for the difference. More study is needed to match up what doctors tell their patients to expect, the patients' acutal expectations, and the final results.
For now it seems best to advise patients to listen carefully to what the doctor tells them. Sometimes it's a good idea to have someone else come to the appointments and listen as well. Some patients go so far as to tape what the surgeon has to say. Write down your reasons for having the surgery and review them with the doctor. Knowing what the surgeon thinks may help you in ordering your list.