Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-19-2011

Comments

The published version of this article is available from the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series A. Volume 93, Issue 20, 19 October 2011, Pages 1906-1914. DOI: 10.2106/JBJS.J.00878. Copyright © 2011 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: The purpose of the present study was to determine if the duration of symptoms affects outcomes following the treatment of intervertebral lumbar disc herniation.

METHODS: An as-treated analysis was performed on patients enrolled in the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) for the treatment of intervertebral lumbar disc herniation. Randomized and observational cohorts were combined. A comparison was made between patients who had had symptoms for six months or less (n = 927) and those who had had symptoms for more than six months (n = 265). Primary and secondary outcomes were measured at baseline and at regular follow-up intervals up to four years. The treatment effect for each outcome measure was determined at each follow-up period for the duration of symptoms for both groups.

RESULTS: At all follow-up intervals, the primary outcome measures were significantly worse in patients who had had symptoms for more than six months prior to treatment, regardless of whether the treatment was operative or nonoperative. When the values at the time of the four-year follow-up were compared with the baseline values, patients in the operative treatment group who had had symptoms for six months or less had a greater increase in the bodily pain domain of the Short Form-36 (SF-36) (mean change, 48.3 compared with 41.9; p < 0.001), a greater increase in the physical function domain of the SF-36 (mean change, 47.7 compared with 41.2; p < 0.001), and a greater decrease in the Oswestry Disability Index score (mean change, -41.1 compared with -34.6; p < 0.001) as compared with those who had had symptoms for more than six months (with higher scores indicating less severe symptoms on the SF-36 and indicating more severe symptoms on the Oswestry Disability Index). When the values at the time of the four-year follow-up were compared with the baseline values, patients in the nonoperative treatment group who had had symptoms for six months or less had a greater increase in the bodily pain domain of the SF-36 (mean change, 31.8 compared with 21.4; p < 0.001), a greater increase in the physical function domain of the SF-36 (mean change, 29.5 compared with 22.6; p = 0.015), and a greater decrease in the Oswestry Disability Index score (mean change, -24.9 compared with -18.5; p = 0.006) as compared with those who had had symptoms for more than six months. Differences in treatment effect between the two groups related to the duration of symptoms were not significant.

CONCLUSIONS: Increased symptom duration due to lumbar disc herniation is related to worse outcomes following both operative and nonoperative treatment. The relative increased benefit of surgery compared with nonoperative treatment was not dependent on the duration of the symptoms.

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