Patient journey following lumbar spinal fusion surgery (FuJourn): A multicentre exploration of the immediate post-operative period using qualitative patient diaries

A. Rushton*, F. Jadhakhan, A. Masson, V. Athey, J.B. Staal, M.L. Verra, A. Emms, M. Reddington, A. Cole, P.C. Willems, L. Benneker, N.R. Heneghan, A. Soundy

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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The aim of this study was to capture and understand the immediate recovery journey of patients following lumbar spinal fusion surgery and explore the interacting constructs that shape their journey. A qualitative study using Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach. A purposive sample of 43 adult patients (>= 16 years) undergoing <= 4 level instrumented fusion for back and/or leg pain of degenerative cause, were recruited pre-surgery from 4 UK spinal surgery centres. Patients completed a weekly diary expressed in their own words for the first 4 weeks following surgery to capture their life as lived. Diary content was based on previous research findings and recorded progress, recovery, motivation, symptoms, medications, healthcare appointments, rehabilitation, positive/negative thoughts, and significant moments; comparing to the previous week. To maximise completion and data quality, diaries could be completed in paper form, word document, as online survey or as audio recording. Strategies to enhance diary adherence included a weekly prompt. A framework analysis for individual diaries and then across participants (deductive and inductive components) captured emergent themes. Trustworthiness was enhanced by strategies including reflexivity, attention to negative cases and use of critical co-investigators. Twenty-eight participants (15 female; n = 18 (64.3%) aged 45-64) contributed weekly diaries (12 withdrew post-surgery, 3 did not follow through with surgery). Adherence with diaries was 89.8%. Participants provided diverse and vivid descriptions of recovery experiences. Three distinct recovery trajectories were identified: meaningful recovery (engagement in physical and functional activities to return to functionality/mobility); progressive recovery (small but meaningful improvement in physical ability with increasing confidence); and disruptive recovery (limited purpose for meaningful recovery). Important interacting constructs shaped participants' recovery including their pain experience and self-efficacy. This is the first account of immediate recovery trajectories from patients' perspectives. Recognition of a patient's trajectory may inform patient-centred recovery, follow-up and rehabilitation to improve patient outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number0241931
Number of pages19
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • burden
  • degenerative-spondylolisthesis
  • low-back-pain
  • management
  • stenosis
  • stroke

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