Between hope and fear: A qualitative study on perioperative experiences and coping of patients after lumbar fusion surgery: A qualitative study on perioperative experiences and coping of patients after lumbar fusion surgery

Annemieke Y. van der Horst*, Hester R. Trompetter, Dean F.M. Pakvis, Saskia M. Kelders, Karlein M.G. Schreurs, Ernst T. Bohlmeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Objective: Recovery following lumbar fusion surgery is frequently accompanied by post-operative pain, and patients often continue to experience some level of chronic pain. There is a scarcity of qualitative research focusing on patient experiences regarding lumbar fusion surgery. This study aims to clarify how lumbar fusion surgery patients experience the perioperative period; their hopes, their post-operative pain experiences, their fluctuating physical condition and accompanying emotions.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 lumbar fusion surgery patients. Transcripts of these interviews were open and axial coded by two coders using Atlas.ti software and Thematic Analysis.

Results: A total of thirteen categories and four overarching themes were generated from the data. Participants described their beliefs and experiences surrounding surgery, including a long preoperative illness process, tumultuous recovery and unfulfilled preoperative expectations. Participants used various forms of pain coping including activity avoidance and endurance, and emotion regulation strategies such as acceptance.

Conclusion: This study demonstrates that, for lumbar fusion patients, surgery seems to be a last resort. Professionals should fulfill the patients need for information and focus on managing realistic expectations while respecting the distress and strain the illness process has on a patient, thereby potentially increasing patient satisfaction and enhancing postoperative recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100707
JournalInternational Journal of Orthopaedic and Trauma Nursing
Early online date8 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019



  • Coping
  • Emotion regulation
  • Interviews
  • Lumbar fusion surgery
  • Patient experiences
  • Qualitative research

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