The Importance of Psychological Assessments Prior to Surgery

Make Sure You Get a Psychological Exam Before Spine Surgery in Santa Monica, CA

Psychological factors like stress and anxiety can result in very real back pain. Addressing such pain by undergoing spine surgery in Beverly Hills, however, will likely result in little or no relief–it may even create physical pain that previously didn’t exist pre-surgery. Consequently, psychological assessments are becoming more relevant before surgery to rule out non-physical factors and increase the odds of successful outcomes.

What’s Involved with Psychological Assessments

It’s at the discretion of a board-certified orthopedic surgeon to determine if a pre-surgical psychological screening is necessary. Screenings, recommended for patients considering elective procedures with no urgency to proceed with surgery, typically include:

• Semi-structured interviews
• Psychometric testing
• Medication reviews*

*Medication reviews typically include an evaluation of medications being taken to treat any existing psychological conditions like anxiety or depression, and the results patients have been having with those medications.

Improving Surgery Outcomes

Psychological issues can also have an effect on the outcome of spine surgery for identifiable causes like narrowing of the spinal canal or worn discs. Patients with untreated psychological issues are more likely to experience:

• Longer recovery times
• Post-surgery complications
• Delayed returns to work
• Difficulty adhering to follow-up instructions

Psychological Assessments Gaining More Acceptance

An online survey of spine surgeons found that less than 40 percent of respondents had some type of mental health screening used for patients. However, the validity of such screenings is slowly increasing the prevalence of such efforts. Further research suggests that experienced spine surgeons and those in private practice are more likely to recommend psychological assessments.

A Need for More Education for Spine Surgeons and Patients

There are indications that more spine surgeons are realizing the importance of psychological screenings in advance of elective spine surgery. Yet there’s still a need to further educate spine surgeons and patients on the possible benefits of such evaluations.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends pre-surgical psychological screenings to ensure that a diagnosis is correct before proceeding with spine surgery. Such steps could help identify untreated psychological issues that, once treated, may reduce recovery times and improve outcomes when surgery is deemed necessary, and result in a better response to non-surgical remedies for back pain relief.

If you are living with chronic pain that’s limiting your ability to complete everyday tasks, call The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757 and request an in-person consultation with an experienced spine surgeon. Our team of doctors can determine the root cause of your back pain and identify possible treatment options including motion-preserving spine treatments, spinal decompression surgery, and conservative spine therapies.