Do patients with back pain-dominant symptoms improve after lumbar surgery for radiculopathy or claudication?

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Background: Currently, few studies have examined whether patients with back or leg pain-predominant symptoms fare better clinically after lumbar spine surgery; therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine whether patients with back pain-dominant symptoms improved to a similar degree as patients with mixed or leg pain-dominant symptoms after lumbar surgery. Methods: A retrospective cohort study was conducted at a single academic center, in which patients were stratified into three groups: (1) back pain-dominant group (B) (visual analog score [VAS] back - VAS leg ≥1.0 point), (2) neutral group (N) (VAS back - VAS leg, 1.0 point), or (3) leg pain-dominant group (L) (VAS leg - VAS back ≥ 1.0 point), using a VAS threshold difference of 1.0 point. As a secondary analysis, the VAS leg-to-back pain (LBR) ratio was used to further stratify patients: (1) nonleg pain-dominant (NLPD) group (LBR ≤ 1.0) or (2) leg pain-dominant (LPD) group (LBR. 1.0). Patient outcomes, including physical component score of the short form-12 survey (PCS-12), mental component score of the short form-12 survey (MCS-12), and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), were identified and compared between groups using univariate and multivariate analysis. Results: There were no significant differences in preoperative, postoperative, or delta scores for PCS-12 or ODI scores between groups. In patients undergoing decompression surgery, those with back pain-dominant or mixed symptoms (B, N, or NLPD groups) did not improve with respect to MCS-12 scores after surgery (P..05), and those with leg pain-dominant symptoms (LPD group) had greater delta MCS-12 scores (P =.046) and greater recovery rates (P =.035). Multiple linear regression did not find LPD to be an independent predictor of PCS-12 or ODI scores. Conclusion: Patients undergoing lumbar decompression surgery and leg pain-dominant symptoms noted a greater improvement in MCS-12 scores; however, there were no differences in PCS-12 or ODI scores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)780-787
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Spine Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Lumbar surgery
  • Mental component score of the short form-12 (MCS-12)
  • Oswestry Disability Index (ODI)
  • Patient-reported outcome measurements (PROMs)
  • Physical component score of the short form-12 (PCS-12)
  • VAS pain dominance
  • Visual analog scale back pain (VAS back)
  • Visual analog scale leg pain (VAS leg)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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