Return to work (RTW) and satisfaction are important outcome measures after surgery for degenerative spine disease. The authors queried the prospective Quality Outcomes Database (QOD) to determine if RTW correlated with patient satisfaction.
The QOD was queried for patients undergoing surgery for degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis. The primary outcome of interest was correlation between RTW and patient satisfaction, as measured by the North American Spine Society patient satisfaction index (NASS). Secondarily, data on satisfied patients were analyzed to see what patient factors correlated with RTW.
Of 608 total patients in the QOD spondylolisthesis data set, there were 292 patients for whom data were available on both satisfaction and RTW status. Of these, 249 (85.3%) were satisfied with surgery (NASS score 1–2), and 224 (76.7%) did RTW after surgery. Of the 68 patients who did not RTW after surgery, 49 (72.1%) were still satisfied with surgery. Of the 224 patients who did RTW, 24 (10.7%) were unsatisfied with surgery (NASS score 3–4). There were significantly more people who had an NASS score of 1 in the RTW group than in the non-RTW group (71.4% vs 42.6%, p < 0.05). Failure to RTW was associated with lower level of education, worse baseline back pain (measured with a numeric rating scale), and worse baseline disability (measured with the Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]).
There are a substantial number of patients who are satisfied with surgery even though they did not RTW. Patients who were satisfied with surgery and did not RTW typically had worse preoperative back pain and ODI and typically did not have a college education. While RTW remains an important measure after surgery, physicians should be mindful that patients who do not RTW may still be satisfied with their outcome.