Background: Questions remain as to the effect that obesity has on patients managed for symptomatic lumbar disc herniation. The purpose of this study was to determine if obesity affects outcomes following the treatment of symptomatic lumbar disc herniation.
Methods: An as-treated analysis was performed on patients enrolled in the Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial for the treatment of lumbar disc herniation. A comparison was made between patients with a body mass index of <30 kg/m2 (nonobese) (n = 854) and those with a body mass index of ≥30 kg/m2 (obese) (n = 336). Baseline patient demographic and clinical characteristics were documented. Primary and secondary outcomes were measured at baseline and at regular follow-up time intervals up to four years. The difference in improvement from baseline between operative and nonoperative treatment was determined at each follow-up period for both groups.
Results: At the time of the four-year follow-up evaluation, improvements over baseline in primary outcome measures were significantly less for obese patients as compared with nonobese patients in both the operative treatment group (Short Form-36 physical function, 37.3 compared with 47.7 points [p < 0.001], Short Form-36 bodily pain, 44.2 compared with 50.0 points [p = 0.005], and Oswestry Disability Index, −33.7 compared with −40.1 points [p < 0.001]) and the nonoperative treatment group (Short Form-36 physical function, 23.1 compared with 32.0 points [p < 0.001] and Oswestry Disability Index, −21.4 compared with −26.1 points [p < 0.001]). The one exception was that the change from baseline in terms of the Short Form-36 bodily pain score was statistically similar for obese and nonobese patients in the nonoperative treatment group (30.9 compared with 33.4 points [p = 0.39]). At the time of the four-year follow-up evaluation, when compared with nonobese patients who had been managed operatively, obese patients who had been managed operatively had significantly less improvement in the Sciatica Bothersomeness Index and the Low Back Pain Bothersomeness Index, but had no significant difference in patient satisfaction or self-rated improvement. In the present study, 77.5% of obese patients and 86.9% of nonobese patients who had been managed operatively were working a full or part-time job. No significant differences were observed in the secondary outcome measures between obese and nonobese patients who had been managed nonoperatively. The benefit of surgery over nonoperative treatment was not affected by body mass index.
Conclusions: Obese patients realized less clinical benefit from both operative and nonoperative treatment of lumbar disc herniation. Surgery provided similar benefit over nonoperative treatment in obese and nonobese patients.
Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level II. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.
1Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Rothman Institute, 925 Chestnut Street, 5th Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19107. E-mail address for J.A. Rihn: email@example.com
2Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, One Medical Center Drive, Lebanon, NH 03756