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Frances A. Carr, Kyle M. Healy, Alan T. Villavicencio, E. Lee Nelson, Alexander Mason, Sigita Burneikiene and Theresa D. Hernández


The primary purpose of this study was to analyze what effect preoperative patient expectations and 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) Mental Component Summary (MCS) scores have on clinical outcomes. To the authors' knowledge, there are no prospective studies that have examined the effects of both preoperative pain expectations and SF-36 MCS scores on clinical outcomes and satisfaction with results following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).


This study analyzed 79 patients (38 men, 41 women) undergoing 1- to 3-level ACDF surgery. Preoperatively, patients were divided into 2 groups for the expectation analyses: patients who expected complete resolution of pain postoperatively (44 total) and those who expected some residual pain (35 total) postoperatively. Preoperative SF-36 MCS scores were used to test the possible effects of mental health on clinical outcomes and satisfaction. Clinical outcomes were evaluated using visual analog scales (VASs) for neck/arm pain, Neck Disability Index (NDI), SF-36 Physical Component Summary (PCS)/MCS, and patient satisfaction with results scales. The mean follow-up duration was 38.8 months (range 7–59 months).


All postoperative measures depicted significant improvement overall. Patients who expected no pain reported lower postoperative neck/arm pain scores (p < 0.02), higher SF-36 MCS scores (p = 0.04), and higher satisfaction with results scores (p = 0.01) compared with patients who expected some pain, after controlling for their respective preoperative scores. Higher preoperative SF-36 MCS scores predicted significantly lower postoperative neck pain (p = 0.003) and NDI (p = 0.004) scores, as well as higher postoperative SF-36 PCS (p = 0.002), SF-36 MCS (p = 0.001), and satisfaction (p = 0.03) scores, after controlling for their respective preoperative scores.


Patients who expected no pain postoperatively reported better scores on the nonstandardized outcome measure scales (VAS arm/neck, satisfaction with results), and higher SF-36 MCS scores. Higher preoperative MCS scores were related to better overall (standardized and nonstandardized) clinical outcomes (VAS neck, NDI, SF-36 PCS/MCS, and satisfaction with results). The results suggest that optimism in patients' expectations as well as mental well-being are related to improved clinical outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.