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BACKGROUNDFailed back surgery syndrome (FBSS) is a pain condition refractory to therapy, and is characterised by persistent low back pain after spinal surgery. FBSS is associated with severe disability, low quality of life and high unemployment. We are currently unable to identify patients who are at risk of developing FBSS. Patients with chronic low back pain may display signs of central hypersensitivity as assessed by quantitative sensory tests (QST). This can contribute to the risk of developing persistent pain after surgery.OBJECTIVEWe tested the hypothesis that central hypersensitivity as assessed by QST predicts FBSS.DESIGNProspective cohort study.SETTINGThree tertiary care centres.PATIENTS141 patients scheduled for up to three segment spinal surgery for chronic low back pain (defined as at least 3 on a numerical rating scale on most days during the week and with a minimum duration of 3 months) due to degenerative changes.OUTCOMESWe defined FBSS as persistent pain, persistent disability or a composite outcome defined as either persistent pain or disability. The primary outcome was persistent pain 12 months after surgery. We applied 14 QST using electrical, pressure and temperature stimulation to predict FBSS and assessed the association of QST with FBSS in multivariable analyses adjusted for sociodemographic, psychological and clinical and surgery-related characteristics.RESULTSNone of the investigated 14 QST predicted FBSS, with 95% confidence intervals of crude and adjusted associations of all QST including one as a measure of no association. Results remained robust in all sensitivity and secondary analyses.CONCLUSIONThe study indicates that assessment of altered central pain processing using current QST is unlikely to identify patients at risk of FBSS and is therefore unlikely to inform clinical decisions.

Original publication




Journal article


European Journal of Anaesthesiology

Publication Date





695 - 704