Depression as a prognostic factor of lumbar spinal stenosis: a systematic review

Spine J. 2014 May 1;14(5):837-46. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.09.052. Epub 2013 Oct 25.


Background context: The clinical syndrome of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a commonly diagnosed lumbar condition associated with pain and disability. Psychological factors, including depression, also affect these and other health-related outcomes. Yet, the prognostic value of depression specifically in the context of LSS is unclear.

Purpose: The aim of this systematic review was to examine the literature on depression as a prognostic factor of outcomes in patients with LSS.

Study design: Best-evidence synthesis.

Patient sample: Patients receiving the diagnosis of LSS and surgery.

Methods: A best-evidence synthesis was conducted, including articles published between 1980 and May 2012. Each article meeting inclusion criteria, including a longitudinal design, was critically appraised on its methodological quality by two authors independently, who then met to reach consensus. Only studies deemed scientifically admissible were included in the review.

Results: Among the 20 articles that met the inclusion criteria, 13 were judged scientifically admissible. The evidence supports an association between preoperative depression and postoperative LSS-related symptom severity (a combination of pain, numbness, weakness and balance issues) and disability. The effect size for these associations was variable, ranging from no effect to a moderate effect. For example, an increase of 5 points on a 63-point depression scale doubled the odds of being below the median in LSS-related symptom severity at follow-up. Findings on the association between preoperative depression and postoperative pain alone and walking capacity were more variable.

Conclusions: Findings support that preoperative depression is likely a prognostic factor for postoperative LSS-related symptom severity and disability at various follow-up points. The prognostic value of depression on the outcomes of pain and walking capacity is less clear. Nonetheless, depression should be considered in the clinical care of this population.

Keywords: Best evidence synthesis; Depression; Prognostic factor; Psychosocial factors; Spinal stenosis; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Depression / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae* / surgery
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / psychology
  • Prognosis
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Spinal Stenosis / psychology*
  • Spinal Stenosis / surgery
  • Walking / psychology