Will I Get a Psychological Screening Before My Spine Procedure?

Pre-surgical depression is not at all unusual, especially when patients have been experiencing pain and loss of mobility.  Not all spine surgery patients suffer from psychological conditions prior to their surgeries, but a growing chorus of professionals is underlining the need for more thorough assessment.

When patients aren’t psychologically screened and a condition like depression is present, surgical outcomes can be affected.  Many people with anxiety and depression struggle through life without seeking help.  It’s, therefore, important that surgeons and other practitioners identify these challenges prior to surgery.

Mental health can also contribute to physical pain, so determining psychological wellness can assist practitioners in arriving at accurate diagnoses.

Pre-Surgical Psychological Screening (PPS)

The recommendation of The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is for PPS that assists practitioners in identifying psychological conditions which may affect outcomes and reduce mental health impacts on diagnoses.

PPS demands that surgeons and other health professionals refer patients to a health psychologist for screening.  This is especially useful for chronic pain sufferers, as psychological factors may be contributing to their pain.

Screening can help surgeons identify the risk of less than satisfactory outcomes, due to patient failure to comply with post-surgical imperatives while laboring under psychological stress, permitting a “heads up” for close follow-up with the patient.

Recent Study Identifies PPS Gap

A study published in the Journal of Spinal Disorders and Techniques identified a significant gap among practitioners surveyed where PPS was concerned.  The study examined the practice of spine surgeons specifically, finding that PPS was practiced by fewer than 50% of those responding.

Among participants, just under 40% had any structures in place to screen for mental health.  Of this sample, all those who responded regularly screened for depression and 85% screened for anxiety.  Half of this group referred patients for a formal PPS.

The significance of these findings is instructive.  Because of the impact of mental health on surgical outcomes and the possibility of diagnostic confusion concerning the presenting spinal condition, routine PPS is strongly advisable, especially concerning depression and anxiety disorders which may interfere.

More Attention Needed To PPS

The USPSTF’s recommendation serves as an urgent reminder that psychological screening is beneficial for patients and their caregivers.  If you’re asking the important question, “Will I get a psychological screening before my spine procedure?”, you’re an aware patient.

The PPS gap might be most effectively addressed at the level of physician training.  Since the time of Rene Descartes, the great French philosopher, the connection between the mind and body has been discussed throughout the medical and scientific communities.

Here in the 21st Century, we’re aware that this connection can drive symptomatic manifestations of spinal and other dysfunction in the body.  The impact on outcomes is also clear.  It’s, therefore, key to the success of spine procedures that PPS be much more widely applied.

As study continues into the relationship between mental health and surgical outcomes, Advanced Spine will be watching closely.  If you’re contemplating a spine procedure, please contact us for more information.