Can We Assess the Success of Surgery for Degenerative Spinal Diseases Using Patients' Recall of Their Preoperative Status?
Background Patients' recall of their preoperative status is seldom used to assess surgical outcomes because of concerns about inaccuracy and bias. The present study aimed to measure the significance of this recall bias and its repercussion on patients' recollection of their preoperative status. Methods Patients submitted to surgery due to degenerative spine diseases over a 1-year period (n = 198) were included in this study. Each patient completed the EuroQol Five-Dimensional Questionnaire (including a visual analog scale), Core Outcome Measures Index (COMI) for neck (including neck pain and shoulder/arm pain numeric rating scale [NRS]), COMI back (including back pain and buttock/leg pain NRS), Neck Disability Index, and Oswestry Disability Index preoperatively. At 1 year after surgery, the patients were asked to complete 2 sets of the same questionnaires, one set regarding their postoperative status and the other set regarding their recall of their preoperative status. Results There was poor to moderate agreement between recalled and collected preoperative scores for all patient-reported outcome measures. Patients' recollection of their preoperative status was accurate for patients who underwent cervical spine surgery, but not for those who underwent lumbar spine surgery. Patients satisfied with the outcome after lumbar spine surgery recalled significantly worse scores compared with the actual preoperative scores. Conclusions Using patients' recall of their preoperative status may lead to overestimation of the effectiveness of surgery, particularly for lumbar spine surgery. The self-assessed effectiveness of surgery interferes with the recollection of baseline status. Highlights Cervical spine surgery recipients accurately recalled their preoperative status at 1 year after surgery. Lumbar spine surgery recipients recalled significantly worse scores compared with scores reported preoperatively. The effectiveness of surgery influences patients' recall bias. Data collected retrospectively are not likely to be accurate, especially in lumbar surgery recipients.
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