The risk of "getting worse" after lumbar microdiscectomy

Tore K. Solberg*, Øystein P. Nygaard, Kristin Sjaavik, Dag Hofoss, Tor Ingebrigtsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


A frequent concern among patients operated for lumbar disc herniation is the risk of "getting worse". To give an evidence-based estimate of the risk for worsening has been difficult, since previous studies have been more focused on unfavourable outcome in general, rather than on deterioration in particular. In this prospective study of 180 patients, we report the frequency of and the risk factors for getting worse after first time lumbar microdiscectomy. Follow-up time was 12 months. Primary outcome measure was the Oswestry disability index, assessing functional status and health-related quality of life. Of the patients 4% got worse. Independent risk factors of deterioration were a long duration of sick leave and a better functional status and quality of life prior to operation. We conclude that the risk of deterioration is small, but larger if the patient has been unable to work despite relatively small health problems. This study also demonstrates that changes in instrument scores should be reported, so that an accurate failure rate can be assessed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-54
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Spine Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Failed back
  • Lumbar discectomy
  • Outcome
  • Prognostic factors


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