Effects of Workload on Return to Work After Elective Lumbar Spine Surgery

Study design:

Retrospective analysis was performed of a multi-center Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network (CSORN) surgical database.


To determine the rate and time to return to work (RTW) based on workload intensity after elective degenerative lumbar spine surgery.


Patients working pre-operatively, aged greater than 18, who underwent a primary one- or two-level elective lumbar spine surgery for degenerative conditions between January 2015 and October 2020 were evaluated. The percentage of patients who returned to work at 1 year and the time to RTW post-operatively were analyzed based on workload intensity.


Of the 1290 patients included in the analysis, the overall rate of RTW was 82% at 1 year. Based on workload there was no significant difference in time to RTW after a fusion procedure, with median time to RTW being 10 weeks. For non-fusion procedure, the sedentary group had a statistically significantly quicker time to RTW than the light-moderate (P < .005) and heavy-very heavy (<.027) groups.


The rate of RTW ranged between 84% for patients with sedentary work to 77% for patient with a heavy-very heavy workload. Median time to resumption of work was about 10 weeks following a fusion regardless of work intensity. There was more variability following non-fusion surgeries such as laminectomy and discectomy reflecting the patient’s job demands.


lumbar spine surgery; return to work; workload intensity.

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