Ann-Christin Johansson, Michael Cornefjord, Leif Bergkvist, John Öhrvik, Steven J. Linton

July 2007, Volume 16, Issue 7, pp 961 - 970 Original Articel Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-007-0319-9

First Online: 09 March 2007

Returning to work after disc surgery appears to be more heavily influenced by psychological aspects of work than by MR-identified morphological alterations. It is still not known whether psychosocial factors of importance for outcome after disc surgery are present preoperatively or develop in the postoperative phase. The aim of this study was to investigate the presence of work-related stress, life satisfaction and demanding life events, among patients undergoing first-time surgery for lumbar disc herniation in comparison with patients scheduled for arthroscopic knee surgery. Sixty-nine patients with disc herniation and 162 patients awaiting arthroscopy were included in the study, during the time period March 2003 to May 2005. Sixty-two percent of the disc patients had been on sick leave for an average of 7.8 months and 14 percent of the knee patients had been on sick leave for an average of 4.2 months. The psychosocial factors were investigated preoperatively using a questionnaire, which was a combination of the questionnaire of quality of work competence (QWC), life satisfaction (LiSat9) and life events as a modification of the social readjustment scale. There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of work-related stress or the occurrence of demanding life events. The disc patients were significantly less satisfied with functions highly inter-related to pain and discomfort, such as present work situation, leisure-time, activities of daily living (ADL) function and sleep. Patients with disc herniation on sick leave were significantly less satisfied with their present work situation than knee patients on sick leave; this sub-group of patients with disc herniation also reported significantly higher expectations in relation to future job satisfaction than knee patients. The results indicate that psychosocial stress is not more pronounced preoperatively in this selected group of disc patients, without co-morbidity waiting for first-time disc surgery, than among knee patients awaiting arthroscopy. It was notable that the disc patients had high expectations in terms of improved job satisfaction after treatment by surgery.

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