Background: There is some evidence from a Cochrane review that rehabilitation following spinal surgery may be beneficial.
Methods: We conducted a survey of current post-operative practice amongst spinal surgeons in the United Kingdom in 2002 to determine whether such interventions are being included routinely in the post-operative management of spinal patients. The survey included all surgeons who were members of either the British Association of Spinal Surgeons (BASS) or the Society for Back Pain Research. Data on the characteristics of each surgeon and his or her current pattern of practice and post-operative care were collected via a reply-paid postal questionnaire.
Results: Usable responses were provided by 57% of the 89 surgeons included in the survey. Most surgeons (79%) had a routine post-operative management regime, but only 35% had a written set of instructions that they gave to their patients concerning this. Over half (55%) of surgeons do not send their patients for any physiotherapy after discharge, with an average of less than two sessions of treatment organised by those that refer for physiotherapy at all. Restrictions on lifting, sitting and driving showed considerable inconsistency both between surgeons and also within the recommendations given by individual surgeons.
Conclusion: Demonstrable inconsistencies within and between spinal surgeons in their approaches to post-operative management can be interpreted as evidence of continuing and significant uncertainty across the sub-speciality as to what does constitute best care in these areas of practice. Conducting further large, rigorous, randomised controlled trials would be the best method for obtaining definitive answers to these questions.