Indications, techniques, and outcomes of posterior surgery for chronic low back pain

Orthop Clin North Am. 2003 Apr;34(2):297-308. doi: 10.1016/s0030-5898(03)00014-2.


This article summarizes a number of issues surrounding the diagnosis, indications, and techniques of posterior lumbar spine surgery for chronic low back pain. It would not be entirely unjustified for a spine surgeon to adhere to a totally avoidant approach to chronic low back pain, rationalized by a reasonably legitimate nihilism regarding the presently available means of diagnosing and surgically managing low back pain [64]. Judging by the number of lumbar fusions performed in North America and the tremendous intellectual and financial investment currently being made in technologies to enhance spinal fusion, such an approach is evidently not achieving wide-spread acceptance on this continent. A rationale approach is therefore required for the many low back pain sufferers with degenerative disk disease who arrive in the office having exhausted almost every imaginable form of nonoperative therapy. Every effort should be made to establish a pathoanatomic etiology of the back pain with a combination of diagnostic modalities. Surgical intervention should be approached cautiously and only after extensive dialog with the patient to establish realistic goals and expectations. Posteriorly performed interbody fusion procedures may provide a high fusion rate and satisfactory clinical outcomes for this challenging problem, although further research is necessary to determine more conclusively the role of surgery and the relative effectiveness of the various arthrodesis techniques.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / diagnosis*
  • Low Back Pain / surgery*
  • Orthopedic Procedures*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Selection