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  • Lower back pain is an all-too common condition, with the World Health Organization estimating that approximately 60 to 70 percent of people in industrialized nations will experience it at some time in their lifetime. There is a well-documented correlation between chronic low back pain and depression, and studies have shown that those who suffer from both conditions generally self-report higher degrees of physical suffering than people who are not clinically depressed. This gives rise to the question of whether patients with depression will actually derive benefits from interventions such as minimally invasive spine surgery. A recent study conducted at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and published in the International journal of Spine Surgery indicates that patients with depression do derive benefits and show improvement in their pain, even if their depression persists.


    The study was led by Gemma Vila-Canet, MD, PhD, who along with colleagues began by noting the importance of recognizing and selecting appropriate candidates for a “foreseeable significant surgical success.” Like our spine specialty practice in New Jersey, the group understand the importance of identifying the right treatment for each patient and choosing the most conservative approach that will deliver the best results. 


    They noted that approximately one third of chronic back pain patients undergoing surgery experience symptoms of preoperative anxiety and depression, and that those traits are common in chronic back pain patients in general. In examining the existing literature they found mixed results in patient satisfaction levels among those suffering from depression, and set out to determine whether an association between depression and postoperative dissatisfaction should be weighed before proceeding with surgery. 


    The group observed the effect of elective lumbar spine surgery on a total of 97 patients. Fifty-four were men and 43 were women, with an average age of 56. Of them, 78 patients had not been diagnosed with depression and 19 patients had depression, representing almost 20% of the group. All had been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and were surveyed for preoperative pain, depression (using a self-rating scale) and other measures of patient wellness and satisfaction. 


    The group found the patients diagnosed with depression reported higher levels of preoperative lumbar pain, as well as of functional limitation when compared with non-depressed patients, and this remained true one year after the surgery. However, the researchers also found that the overall improvement between pre-operative pain and post-operative pain was very similar, and there was no statistical difference in satisfaction with the surgery between the two groups. Among the non-depressed patients 80.3% were satisfied with the surgery, and the same was true of 70.6% of the depressed patients.


    Summarizing their findings, the researchers wrote, “The main finding of this study is that depressed and nondepressed patients improve similarly when a surgery for a degenerative lumbar condition is performed. Satisfaction levels with the procedure were found to be similar in both groups.”


    Finding the right solution for your back pain requires expertise as well as a robust understanding of each patient’s unique needs. For help with your condition, contact our New Jersey back pain specialists today to set up a time for a consultation.


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