The impact of surgical wait time on patient-based outcomes in posterior lumbar spinal surgery

Eur Spine J. 2007 Nov;16(11):1832-9. doi: 10.1007/s00586-007-0452-5. Epub 2007 Aug 14.


A prospective observational study was conducted on patients undergoing posterior lumbar spine surgery for degenerative spinal disorders. The study purpose was to evaluate the effect of wait time to surgery on patient derived generic and disease specific functional outcome following surgery. A prolonged wait to surgery may adversely affect surgical outcome. Although there is literature on the effect of wait time to surgery in surgical fields such as oncology, cardiac, opthamologic, and total joint arthroplasty, little is known regarding the effect of wait time to surgery as it pertains to the spinal surgical population. Consecutive patients undergoing elective posterior lumbar spinal surgery for degenerative disorders were recruited. Short-Form 36 and Oswestry disability questionnaires were administered (pre-operatively, and at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year post-operatively). Patients completed a questionnaire regarding their experience with the wait time to surgery. The study cohort consisted of 70 patients with follow-up in 53/70 (76%). Time intervals from the onset of patient symptoms to initial consultation by family physician through investigations, spinal surgical consultation and surgery were quantified. Time intervals were compared to patient specific improvements in reported outcome following surgery using Cox Regression analysis. The effect of patient and surgical parameters on wait time was evaluated using the median time as a reference for those patients who had either a longer or shorter wait. Significant improvements in patient derived outcome were observed comparing post-operative to pre-operative baseline scores. The greatest improvements were observed in aspects relating to physical function and pain. A longer wait to surgery was associated with less improvement in outcome following surgery (SF-36 domains of BP, GH, RP, VT). A longer wait time to surgery negatively influences the results of posterior lumbar spinal surgery for degenerative conditions as quantified by patient derived functional outcome measures. The parameters of pain severity and physical aspects of function appear to be the most significantly affected.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Care
  • Preoperative Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Waiting Lists*