To date, the factors that predict whether a patient returns to work after lumbar discectomy are poorly understood. Information on postoperative work status is important in analyzing the cost-effectiveness of the procedure.
An observational prospective cohort study was completed at 13 academic and community sites (NeuroPoint–Spinal Disorders [NeuroPoint-SD] registry). Patients undergoing single-level lumbar discectomy were included. Variables assessed included age, sex, body mass index (BMI), SF-36 physical function score, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score, presence of diabetes, smoking status, systemic illness, workers' compensation status, and preoperative work status. The primary outcome was working status within 3 months after surgery. Stepwise logistic regression analysis was performed to determine which factors were predictive of return to work at 3 months following discectomy.
There were 127 patients (of 148 total) with data collected 3 months postoperatively. The patients' average age at the time of surgery was 46 ± 1 years, and 66.9% of patients were working 3 months postoperatively. Statistical analyses demonstrated that the patients more likely to return to work were those of younger age (44.5 years vs 50.5 years, p = 0.008), males (55.3% vs 28.6%, p = 0.005), those with higher preoperative SF-36 physical function scores (44.0 vs 30.3, p = 0.002), those with lower preoperative ODI scores (43.8 vs 52.6, p = 0.01), nonsmokers (83.5% vs 66.7%, p = 0.03), and those who were working preoperatively (91.8% vs 26.2%, p < 0.0001). When controlling for patients who were working preoperatively (105 patients), only age was a statistically significant predictor of postoperative return to work (44.1 years vs 51.1 years, p = 0.049).
In this cohort of lumbar discectomy patients, preoperative working status was the strongest predictor of postoperative working status 3 months after surgery. Younger age was also a predictor. Factors not influencing return to work in the logistic regression analysis included sex, BMI, SF-36 physical function score, ODI score, presence of diabetes, smoking status, and systemic illness.
Clinical trial registration no.: 01220921 (clinicaltrials.gov)