Rehabilitation Following Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: A Cochrane Review

Alison H. Mcgregor, Katrin Probyn, Suzie Cro, Caroline J. Doré, A. Kim Burton, Federico Balagué, Tamar Pincus, Jeremy Fairbank

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Study Design
A systematic review of randomised controlled trials (RCTs)

To determine the effects of active rehabilitation on functional outcome following lumbar spinal stenosis surgery when compared with 'usual postoperative care'.

Summary of background data
Surgery rates for lumbar spinal stenosis have risen, yet outcomes remain suboptimal. Post-operative rehabilitation has been suggested as a tool to improve post-operative function but, to date, there is limited evidence to support its use.

CENTRAL (The Cochrane Library), the Cochrane Back Review Group Trials Register, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and PEDro electronic databases were searched. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing the effectiveness of active rehabilitation with usual care in adults with lumbar spinal stenosis who had undergone primary spinal decompression surgery were included. Two authors independently selected studies, assessed the risk of bias, and extracted the data in line with the recommendations of the Cochrane Back Review Group. Study results were pooled in a meta-analysis when appropriate using functional status as the primary outcome, with secondary outcomes including measures of leg pain, low back pain, and global improvement/general health. The GRADE approach was used to assess the quality of the evidence.

Our searches yielded 1,726 articles, of which three studies (N = 373 participants) were suitable for inclusion in meta-analysis. All included studies were deemed to have low risk of bias; no study had unacceptably high dropout rates. There was moderate evidence suggesting that active rehabilitation was more effective than usual care in improving both short- and long-term functional status following surgery. Similar findings were noted for secondary outcomes, including short-term improvement in low back pain and long-term improvement in both low back pain and leg pain.

We obtained moderate-quality evidence indicating that postoperative active rehabilitation after decompression surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis is more effective than usual care. Further work is required particularly with respect to the cost effectiveness of such interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1044-1054
Number of pages11
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


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