We carried out a retrospective review of 155 patients with lumbar spinal stenosis who had been treated surgically and followed up regularly: 77 were evaluated at a mean of 6.5 years (5 to 8) after surgery by two independent observers. The outcome was assessed using the scoring system of Roland and Morris, and the rating system of Prolo, Oklund and Butcher. Instability was determined according to the criteria described by White and Panjabi. A significant decrease in low back pain and disability was seen. An excellent or good outcome was noted in 79% of patients; 9% showed secondary radiological instability. Surgical decompression is a safe and efficient procedure. In the absence of preoperative radiological evidence of instability, fusion is not required.