I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

2022 Dec 11

Med J Aust

The role of spinal surgery in the treatment of low back pain.


Evans L, O'Donohoe T, Morokoff A, Drummond K
Med J Aust. 2022 Dec 11.
PMID: 36502448.


Low back pain (LBP) is common and a leading cause of disability and lost productivity worldwide. Acute LBP is frequently self-resolving, but recurrence is common, and a significant proportion of patients will develop chronic pain. This transition is perpetuated by anatomical, biological, psychological and social factors. Chronic LBP should be managed with a holistic biopsychosocial approach of generally non-surgical measures. Spinal surgery has a role in alleviating radicular pain and disability resulting from neural compression, or where back pain relates to cancer, infection, or gross instability. Spinal surgery for all other forms of back pain is unsupported by clinical data, and the broader evidence base for spinal surgery in the management of LBP is poor and suggests it is ineffective. Emerging areas of interest include selection of a minority of patients who may benefit from surgery based on spinal sagittal alignment and/or nuclear medicine scans, but an evidence base is absent. Spinal surgery for back pain has increased substantially over recent decades, and disproportionately among privately insured patients, thus the contribution of industry and third-party payers to this increase, and their involvement in published research, requires careful consideration.