Symptoms of distress as prospective predictors of pain-related sciatica treatment outcomes

Robert R. Edwards, Brendan Klick, Luis Buenaver, Mitchell B. Max, Jennifer A. Haythornthwaite, Robert B. Keller and Steven J. Atlas

This study, seeks to determine whether acute symptoms of depression and anxiety are prospectively associated with treatment outcomes over a 3-year follow-up period in surgically treated and non-surgically treated patients with sciatica. Patients were recruited from the practices of community-based physicians throughout the state of Maine, and underwent in-person baseline assessments, with mailed follow-up questionnaires at 3, 6, 12, 24, and 36 months. Study outcomes included patient-reported symptoms of pain and disability.  The results show that elevated distress appears to be a significant risk factor for reduced treatment benefit (i.e., less improvement in pain and disability) over short and medium-term follow-up periods in patients with sciatica. Future research should determine whether the prospective identification and treatment of patients with high levels of distress (a “yellow flag”) is associated with improved treatment outcomes.

Pain, 2007, 130(1-2), 47-55.

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