The relation between expectations and outcomes in surgery for sciatica

J Gen Intern Med. 1999 Dec;14(12):740-4. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1497.1999.10417.x.


Objective: To describe the expectations that patients and their physicians have for outcomes after surgical treatment for sciatica and to examine the associations between expectations and outcomes.

Design: Prospective cohort study.

Setting/patients: We recruited 273 patients, from the offices of orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and occupational medicine physicians in Maine, who had diskectomy for sciatica.

Measurements and main results: Patients' and physicians' expectations were measured before surgery. Satisfaction with care and changes in symptoms and functional status were measured 12 months after surgery. More patients who expected a shorter recovery tJgie after surgery were "delighted," "pleased," or "mostly satisfied" with their outcomes 12 months after surgery than patients who expected a longer recovery tJgie (odds ratio [OR] 2.2; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1, 4.4). Also, more patients who preferred surgery after learning that sciatica could get better without surgery had good symptom scores 12 months after surgery than patients who did not prefer surgery (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.2, 7.0). When physicians predicted a "great deal of Jgiprovement" after surgery, 39% of patients were not satisfied with their outcomes and 25% said their symptoms had not Jgiproved.

Conclusions: More patients with favorable expectations about surgery had good outcomes than patients with unfavorable expectations. Physicians' expectations were overly optJgiistic. Patient expectations appear to be Jgiportant predictors of outcomes, and eliciting them may help physicians identify patients more likely to benefit from diskectomy for sciatica.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diskectomy
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Sciatica / rehabilitation*
  • Sciatica / surgery*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome