Conservative Care in Lumbar Spine Surgery Trials: A Descriptive Literature Review

Aaron J. Yang, Rogelio A. Coronado, Lilian Hoffecker, Chan Gao, Kelly Saurwein, Danielle Shoreman, Adam S. Hoffberg, Venu Akuthota

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Scopus citations


    Objective To evaluate the degree to which conservative care and failure were specifically defined in studies comparing nonoperative treatment versus surgery for low back pain (LBP) conditions in adults. Data Sources A comprehensive literature search was conducted by an experienced librarian using MEDLINE (PubMed), Embase, Google Scholar, and CENTRAL from January 2003 to June 2014. Endnote bibliographic management application was used to remove duplicates and organize the citations. Study Selection Prospective, randomized, or cohort trials comparing surgery versus conservative intervention for patients with LBP conditions. Study selection was conducted by 2 independent reviewers. Data Extraction Three independent reviewers extracted data from each article using a structured data extraction form. Data extracted included type of study, participant characteristics, sample size, description, and duration of conservative care and whether failed conservative care criterion was defined. Data Synthesis A total of 852 unique records were screened for eligibility; of those, 72 articles were identified for further full-text review. Thirty-four full texts were excluded based on the exclusion criteria, and 38 articles, representing 20 unique studies, were included for qualitative synthesis. Fifteen of the 20 studies defined the duration of conservative care. Only 3 studies defined the dosage of physical therapy sessions, including total number of visits and visit duration. Two studies described medication usage, including the duration and type. No studies specifically defined what constituted failed conservative therapy. Conclusions This literature review suggests conservative care is poorly defined in randomized trials, which can lead to ambiguity of research procedures and unclear guidelines for clinicians. Future studies should increase transparency and explicitly define conservative care.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)165-172
    Number of pages8
    JournalArchives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


    • Clinical trials as topic
    • Low back pain
    • Rehabilitation
    • Spinal fusion

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
    • Rehabilitation


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