Background: Back surgery rates are rapidly rising in the United States. This surgery is usually elective, so patient preferences are important in the treatment decision.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to determine the impact on outcomes and surgical choices of an interactive, diagnosis-specific videodisk program for informing patients about treatment choices.
Research design: This was a randomized, controlled trial at 2 sites comparing the interactive video plus a booklet with the booklet alone.
Subjects: Elective surgery candidates (n = 393) included 171 patients with herniated disks, 110 with spinal stenosis, and 112 with other diagnoses.
Measures: Mailed questionnaires were used to assess outcomes and satisfaction; surgery rates were determined by questionnaires and automated records.
Results: Symptom and functional outcomes at 3 months and 1 year were similar between study groups. The overall surgery rate was 22% lower in the videodisk group (26% versus 33%, P = 0.08). Among patients with herniated disks, those in the video group underwent significantly less surgery (32% versus 47%, P = 0.05 by Kaplan-Meier test). Among patients with spinal stenosis, surgery rates in the video group were higher (39% for the video group, 29% for the booklet group; P = 0.4). There was little effect on patient satisfaction, but patients in the video group felt better informed.
Conclusions: The program appears to facilitate decision making and may help to ensure informed consent. For patients with herniated disks, it reduced the surgery rate without diminishing patient outcomes. Its impact on costs of care depends on the proportion of patients with various diagnoses and on local surgery rates.