OBJECT Patient outcome measures are becoming increasingly important in the evaluation of health care quality and physician performance. Of the many novel measures currently being explored, patient satisfaction and other subjective measures of patient experience are among the most heavily weighted. However, these subjective measures are strongly influenced by a number of factors, including patient demographics, level of understanding of the disorder and its treatment, and patient expectations. In the present study, patients referred to a neurosurgery clinic for degenerative spinal disorders were surveyed to determine their understanding of lumbar spondylosis diagnosis and treatment. METHODS A multiple-choice, 6-question survey was distributed to all patients referred to a general neurosurgical spine clinic at a tertiary care center over a period of 11 months as a quality improvement initiative to assist the provider with individualized patient counseling. The survey consisted of questions designed to assess patient understanding of the role of radiological imaging in the diagnosis and treatment of low-back and leg pain, and patient perception of the indications for surgical compared with conservative management. Demographic data were also collected. RESULTS A total of 121 surveys were included in the analysis. More than 50% of the patients indicated that they would undergo spine surgery based on abnormalities found on MRI, even without symptoms; more than 40% of patients indicated the same for plain radiographs. Similarly, a large proportion of patients (33%) believed that back surgery was more effective than physical therapy in the treatment of back pain without leg pain. Nearly one-fifth of the survey group (17%) also believed that back injections were riskier than back surgery. There were no significant differences in survey responses among patients with a previous history of spine surgery compared with those without previous spine surgery. CONCLUSIONS These results show that a surprisingly high percentage of patients have misconceptions regarding the diagnosis and treatment of lumbar spondylosis, and that these misconceptions persist in patients with a history of spine surgery. Specifically, patients overemphasize the value of radiological studies and have mixed perceptions of the relative risk and effectiveness of surgical intervention compared with more conservative management. These misconceptions have the potential to alter patient expectations and decrease satisfaction, which could negatively impact patient outcomes and subjective valuations of physician performance. While these results are preliminary, they highlight a need for improved communication and patient education during surgical consultation for lumbar spondylosis.
Keywords: back pain; lumbar spondylosis; misconceptions; patient expectations; patient satisfaction.