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Can Fam Physician. 2011 Jul;57(7):803-10.

Is referral to a spine surgeon a double-edged sword?: patient concerns before consultation.

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  • 1University of Western Ontario, London, Ont.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the concerns of adult patients with spine-related complaints during the period between referral to and consultation with a spine surgeon.

DESIGN:

Prospective survey.

SETTING:

Toronto, Ont.

PARTICIPANTS:

A total of 338 consecutive, nonemergent patients before consultation with a single spine surgeon over a 5-month period.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Patient concerns, effect of referral to a spine surgeon, and effect of waiting to see a spine surgeon.

RESULTS:

The issues patients reported to be most concerning were ongoing pain (45.6% rated this as most concerning), loss of function (23.4%), need for surgery (12.1%), and permanence of the condition (9.6%). Regression analysis demonstrated that older age was an independent predictor of increased level of concern regarding pain (P=.01) and disability (P=.04). Forty-seven percent of all patients listed the need for surgery among their top 3 concerns. Mere referral to a spine surgeon (P=.03) was an independent predictor of increased concern regarding the need for surgery. Sex, diagnosis, surgical candidacy, and actual wait time were not predictive of increased concerns. Patients reported family physicians to be their most influential information source regarding spinal conditions.

CONCLUSION:

Timely provision of more specific information regarding the benign and non-surgical nature of most degenerative spinal conditions might substantially reduce patients' exaggerated concerns regarding the probability of surgery for a considerable number of patients referred to spine surgeons.

PMID:
21753108
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3135451
Free PMC Article
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