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Acta Orthop. 2011 Apr;82(2):198-203. doi: 10.3109/17453674.2011.566136. Epub 2011 Mar 24.

Health-related quality of life in patients with surgically treated lumbar disc herniation: 2- and 7-year follow-up of 117 patients.

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Department of Orthopaedics, Sahlgrenska University Hospital and Institute for Clinical Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.



Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) instruments have been of increasing interest for evaluation of medical treatments over the past 10-15 years. In this prospective, long-term follow-up study we investigated the influence of preoperative factors and the change in HRQoL over time after lumbar disc herniation surgery.


117 patients surgically treated for lumbar disc herniation (L4-L5 or L5-S1) were evaluated with a self-completion HRQoL instrument (EQ-5D) preoperatively, after 2 years (96 patients) and after 7 years (89 patients). Baseline data (age, sex, duration of leg pain, surgical level) and degree of leg and back pain (VAS) were obtained preoperatively. The mean age was 39 (18-66) years, 54% were men, and the surgical level was L5-S1 in 58% of the patients. The change in EQ-5D score at the 2-year follow-up was analyzed by testing for correlation and by using a multiple regression model including all baseline factors (age, sex, duration of pain, degree of leg and back pain, and baseline EQ-5D score) as potential predictors.


85% of the patients reported improvement in EQ-5D two years after surgery and this result remained at the long-term follow-up. The mean difference (change) between the preoperative EQ-5D score and the 2-year and 7-year scores was 0.59 (p < 0.001) and 0.62 (p < 0.001), respectively. However, the HRQoL for this patient group did not reach the mean level of previously reported values for a normal population of the same age range at any of the follow-ups. The changes in EQ-5D score between the 2- and 7-year follow-ups were not statistically significant (mean change 0.03, p = 0.2). There was a correlation between baseline leg pain and the change in EQ-5D at the 2-year (r = 0.33, p = 0.002) and 7-year follow-up (r = 0.23, p = 0.04). However, when using regression analysis the only statistically significant predictor for change in EQ-5D was baseline EQ-5D score.


Our findings suggest that HRQoL (as measured by EQ-5D) improved 2 years after lumbar disc herniation surgery, but there was no further improvement after 5 more years. Low quality of life and severe leg pain at baseline are important predictors of improvement in quality of life after lumbar disc herniation surgery.

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