To better understand the effects of spine fusion on a patient’s mental health, a multispecialty team from the Hospital for Special Surgery, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Weill Cornell Medicine (NYC) and the Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria conducted a study. They were specifically looking at post-surgery anxiety and depression following a spine fusion procedure .The study focused on the data of 39,495 patients who had one of two procedures done (Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion and posterior lumber fusion) between 2012 and 2015. The database accessed was the Truven MarketScan database. While surgeries can help the physical pain or problem, the effects on the patients’ mental health is less understood. Initial studies suggest that patients may need care after surgery to improve their mental health. Surgery causes disruptions to the patient’s life while causing significant pain. Many patients have an unrealistic expectation of what will happen after surgery, so the intensification of pain and the inability to do much can send patients into a downward mental spiral.
The researchers wanted to determine what could be the best predictors for depression and anxiety. The presence of other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, drug abuse, and sleep apnea, as well as the patients’ median income seem to be good indicators of how the patient will mentally cope after the surgery. However, people who have spinal surgery seem to be at greater risk of both mental conditions. Of greater concern was that the database only covered instances when the disorders were reported; the number of undiagnosed cases could indicate a more serious problem with post surgery mental health. This is an important factor that should be considered prior to recommending surgery, particularly if a patient has underlying problems that could speed up their deteriorating mental state after treatment.
For more details on the study, check out the article Significant Number of Spine Patients Develop Depression and/or Anxiety. If you would like to read the full published study, it is called “New Onset Depression and Anxiety After Spinal Fusion Surgery: Incidence and Risk Factors,” which was published in Spine in August 2020.