Does Symptom Duration Signal Complications in Patients with Lumbar Spine Problems?

A registry study overstates the case for early intervention in patients with degenerative lumbar spine problems.

Editor’s Note: Sometimes at CORRelations, we’ll cover an article we think is likely to cross your desk, but is one whose message we have reservations about. Here’s one.

What’s the Claim?

A study from a large registry evaluated symptom duration prior to lumbar spine surgery for degenerative indications. Because it found an association between surgery after ≥ 1 year of symptoms, the authors made claims like:

  • “Timely referral and surgery for degenerative lumbar pathology may optimize patient outcome”
  • “Our analysis suggests a need for lumbar surgeries to be performed prior to 1 year of symptom duration in order to maximize patient outcomes”
  • “Expeditious surgical intervention may benefit patients in achieving favorable outcomes”

Such claims are potentially misleading. Let’s talk about why you shouldn’t recommend earlier surgery based on this study.

How’s It Stack Up?