Pietro Scarone, Wouter Van Santbrink, Eva Koetsier, Anouk Smeets, Henk Van Santbrink, Madelon L. Peters

November 2022, pp 1 - 18 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07426-1

First Online: 24 November 2022


Patients undergoing spinal fusion are prone to develop persisting spinal pain that may be related to pre-existent psychological factors. The aim of this review was to summarize the existing evidence about perioperative psychological interventions and to analyze their effect on postoperative pain, disability, and quality of life in adult patients undergoing complex surgery for spinal disorders. Studies investigating any kind of psychological intervention explicitly targeting patients undergoing a surgical fusion on the spine were included.


We included articles that analyzed the effects of perioperative psychological interventions on either pain, disability, and/or quality of life in adult patients with a primary diagnosis of degenerative or neoplastic spinal disease, undergoing surgical fusion of the spine. We focused on interventions that had a clearly defined psychological component. Two independent reviewers used the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) to perform a systematic review on different databases. Risk of bias was evaluated using the Downs and Black checklist. Given study differences in outcome measures and interventions administered, a meta-analysis was not performed. Instead, a qualitative synthesis of main results of included papers was obtained.


Thirteen studies, conducted between 2004 and 2017, were included. The majority were randomized-controlled trials (85%) and most patients underwent lumbar fusion (92%). Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) was used in nine studies (69%). CBT in the perioperative period may lead to a postoperative reduction in pain and disability in the short-term follow-up compared to care as usual. There was less evidence for an additional effect of CBT at intermediate and long-term follow-up.


The existing evidence suggests that a reduction in pain and disability in the short-term, starting from immediately after surgery to 3 months, is likely to be obtained when a CBT approach is used. However, there is inconclusive evidence regarding the long-term effect of a perioperative psychological intervention after spinal fusion surgery. Further research is necessary to better define the frequency, intensity, and timing of such an approach in relation to the surgical intervention, to be able to maximize its effect and be beneficial to patients.

Read Full Article