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The Degree of Decompressive Relief and Its Relation to Clinical Outcome in Patients Undergoing Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Herno, Arto, MD, PhD*; Saari, Tapani, MD; Suomalainen, Olavi, MD, PhD; Airaksinen, Olavi, MD, PhD*

Clinical Studies
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Study Design. A cross-sectional, clinical study to evaluate surgical decompression of the stenotic area monitored by computed tomographic scan and its relation to clinical variables in patients operated on for lumbar spinal stenosis.

Objective. To study in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis the influence of the degree of compressive relief on the patients’ clinical outcome.

Summary of Background Data. The goal of surgical treatment in lumbar spinal stenosis is to decompress the stenotic area. Although the decompression should be adequate, there are no clear guidelines to determine the extent of necessary decompression. In fact, there is clinical evidence that there is a discrepancy between the surgical outcome in the patient with lumbar spinal stenosis and postoperative radiologic findings.

Methods. In 92 patients with lumbar spinal stenosis who had had no prior back surgery, preoperative and postoperative computed tomographic scans were obtained to determine the degree of decompression. The postoperative scan findings were classified according to the degree of decompression into a no-stenosis group (n = 35), an adjacent-stenosis group (n = 27), and a residual-stenosis group (n = 30). The postoperative instability of the lumbar spine was investigated by functional radiography. The subjective disability of the patients was assessed using the Oswestry score and the severity of pain using the visual analog scale. Walking capacity was evaluated by a treadmill test. The patients’ estimations of the results of surgery were classified into groups of satisfied patients and dissatisfied patients.

Results. The mean Oswestry score in all 92 patients was 27.1, and mean walking capacity was 630 m. In the satisfied patients, the Oswestry score was 18.8 and in the dissatisfied patients, 34.9 (P < 0.0000). Walking capacity was 690 m and 594 m, respectively. There were 30 patients with postoperative spinal instability, but it had no influence on surgical outcome. There were no differences in the Oswestry score, walking capacity, and patients’ satisfaction among the postoperative CT groups. In the linear regression analysis, the satisfied patient corresponded significantly with the Oswestry score.

Conclusions. The satisfaction of the patients with the results of surgery was more important in surgical outcome than the degree of decompression detected on computed tomographic scan.

From the *Departments of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, †Clinical Radiology, and ‡Surgery, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland.

Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre

Oxford, United Kingdom

Acknowledgment date: March 10, 1998.

Acceptance date: June 3, 1998.

Address reprint requests to

Arto Herno, MD, PhD

Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine

Kuopio University Hospital

PL 1777

SF-70210 Kuopio, Finland

E-mail:arto.herno@kuh.fi

Device status category: 1.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.