Impact of educational background on preoperative disease severity and postoperative outcomes among patients with lumbar spondylolisthesis: a Quality Outcomes Database study.



Deficiency in patient education has been correlated with increased disease-related morbidity and decreased access to care. However, the associations between educational level, preoperative disease severity, and postoperative outcomes in patients with lumbar spondylolisthesis have yet to be explored.


The spondylolisthesis dataset of the Quality Outcomes Database (QOD)-a cohort with prospectively collected data by the SpineCORe study team of the 12 highest enrolling sites with an 81% follow-up at 5 years -was utilized and stratified for educational level. Patients were classified into three categories (high school or less, graduate, or postgraduate). Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) documented at baseline and follow-up included Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score, EQ-5D in quality-adjusted life years, and numeric rating scale (NRS) scores for back and leg pain. Disease severity was measured with PROMs. Postoperatively, patients also completed the North American Spine Society assessment to measure their satisfaction with surgery. Multivariable regression analysis was used to compare education level with disease severity and postoperative outcomes.


A total of 608 patients underwent analysis, with 260 individuals (42.8%) at an educational level of high school or less. On univariate analysis, baseline disease severity was worse among patients with lower levels of education. On multivariable regression analysis, patients with postgraduate level of education had significantly lower ODI scores (β = -3.75, 95% CI -7.31 to -0.2, p = 0.039) compared to graduates, while the other PROMs were not associated with significant differences at baseline. Five years postoperatively, patients from various educational backgrounds exhibited similar rates of minimal clinically important differences in PROMs. Nevertheless, patients with the lowest educational level had higher ODI scores (27.1, p < 0.01), lower EQ-5D scores (0.701, p < 0.01), and higher NRS leg pain (3.0, p < 0.01) and back pain (4.0, p < 0.01) scores compared to those with graduate or postgraduate levels of education. The odds for postoperative satisfaction were also comparable between cohorts at 5 years (reference, graduate level; high school or less, OR 0.87, 95% CI 0.46-1.64, p = 0.659; postgraduate, OR 1.6, 95% CI 0.7-3.65, p = 0.262).


Lower patient education level was associated with a greater baseline disease severity in patients with lumbar spondylolisthesis. Surgery demonstrated similar benefits irrespective of educational background; however, individuals with lower educational level reported lower outcomes overall. This emphasizes the need for enhanced health literacy to mitigate disparities for reported outcomes.





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Publication Info

Agarwal, Nitin, Andrew K Chan, Erica F Bisson, Steven D Glassman, Kevin T Foley, Christopher I Shaffrey, Oren N Gottfried, Luis M Tumialán, et al. (2024). Impact of educational background on preoperative disease severity and postoperative outcomes among patients with lumbar spondylolisthesis: a Quality Outcomes Database study. Journal of neurosurgery. Spine. pp. 1–12. 10.3171/2024.3.spine231024 Retrieved from

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Christopher Ignatius Shaffrey

Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

I have more than 25 years of experience treating patients of all ages with spinal disorders. I have had an interest in the management of spinal disorders since starting my medical education. I performed residencies in both orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire range of spinal disorders. My goal has been to find innovative ways to manage the range of spinal conditions, straightforward to complex. I have a focus on managing patients with complex spinal disorders. My patient evaluation and management philosophy is to provide engaged, compassionate care that focuses on providing the simplest and least aggressive treatment option for a particular condition. In many cases, non-operative treatment options exist to improve a patient’s symptoms. I have been actively engaged in clinical research to find the best ways to manage spinal disorders in order to achieve better results with fewer complications.

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