Effects of Surgery for Low Back Pain on Overall Health
Do patients with previous back surgery have worse health than patients who haven't had surgery? This is the question researchers asked through a survey of more than 18,000 patients with low back pain (LBP). It's the first study to look at the effects of back surgery on general health.

LBP patients at 27 spine centers around the United States answered questions about their physical and mental health. About 20 percent (3,632) of all patients had previous back surgery. Some had pressure taken off the disc and spinal nerve root. This procedure is called decompression. Others had spinal fusion, or decompression and a spinal fusion at the same time.

The results showed that patients who had previous surgery were more likely to be older males who were overweight. They were also more likely to be white, to smoke, and to have a high school education or lower. Most of the patients with a history of surgery had the operation more than two years ago.

This study also reports results from the survey based on the type of surgery performed. Patients who had a spinal decompression seemed to have the best health status. The authors suggest that rehab programs include ways to improve both physical and mental well-being after back surgery.
Hwan T. Hee, MD, et al. The Effect of Previous Low Back Surgery on General Health Status. In Spine. September 1, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 17. Pp. 1931-1937.