M. Cornefjord, G. Byröd, H. Brisby, B. Rydevik

December 2000, Volume 9, Issue 6, pp 563 - 570 Original article Read Full Article 10.1007/s005860000161

First Online: 11 December 2000

Limited data are available about the long-term outcome of surgical treatment for lumbar spinal stenosis, and there is a wide variation in reported success rates. There is also a controversy regarding differences in long-term outcome between patients undergoing decompressive surgery alone and those undergoing both decompression and fusion. The aim of this study was to evaluate the long-term clinical outcome and possible complications of decompressive surgery, with special reference to possible differences between patients undergoing fusion, with or without instrumentation, and those undergoing decompression alone. All 124 patients undergoing first-time surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis between 1982 and 1991 at our department were included, and their medical records were reviewed retrospectively. Ninety-six of the patients were available for follow-up and were re-examined by an independent investigator and assessed with a questionnaire after a mean follow-up period of 7.1 (range 4.0–12.2) years. Sixty-five percent of all the patients at the follow-up were subjectively satisfied. Eighty-eight percent of the patients reported constant or daily leg pain preoperatively compared to 43% at follow-up. Constant or daily low back pain was reported by 83% of the patients preoperatively compared to 45% at follow-up. Improvement in walking capacity was found in most patients, and only 4% of the patients who had a preoperatively documented maximum walking distance reported a decreased walking capacity. Twenty-four (25%) of all patients used analgesics daily at the time of follow-up, 34 patients (35%) occasionally and 38 patients (40%) never. The patients with fusions, instrumented or non-instrumented, did not differ significantly from the unfused patients regarding any of the above-mentioned parameters. The results of the study showed that most patients demonstrated a considerable improvement in walking capacity at follow-up. This improvement was significant (P < 0.001) and of clinical importance. A significant improvement regarding both low back pain and leg pain was found postoperatively compared to preoperatively (P < 0.001). There were no statistical differences, judged by all the evaluated parameters, regarding the clinical outcome between patients who were fused and those who were not. Neither were any significant differences found between instrumented fusions compared to uninstrumented fusions. In accordance with most other long-term follow-up studies, about two-thirds (65%) of the patients claimed a satisfactory result at follow-up.

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