Cognitive Processes during Recovery: Moving toward Personalized Spine Surgery Outcomes

Carolyn E. Schwartz, Bruce D. Rapkin, Katrina Borowiec, Joel A. Finkelstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper focuses on a novel application of personalized medicine: the ways one thinks about health (i.e., appraisal processes) as relevant predictors of spine-surgery response. This prospective longitudinal cohort study (n = 235) investigated how appraisal processes relate to outcomes of spinal decompression and/or fusion surgery, from pre-surgery through one-year post-surgery. Patient-reported outcomes assessed spine-specific disability (Oswestry Disability Index (ODI)), mental health functioning (Rand-36 Mental Component Score (MCS)), and cognitive appraisal processes (how people recall past experiences and to whom they compare themselves). Analysis of Variance examined the appraisal-outcomes association in separate models at pre-surgery, 3 months, and 12 months. We found that appraisal processes explained less variance at pre-surgery than later and were differentially relevant to health outcomes at different times in the spine-surgery recovery trajectory. For the ODI, recall of the seriousness of their condition was most prominent early in recovery, and comparing themselves to positive standards was most prominent later. For the MCS, not focusing on the negative aspects of their condition and/or on how others see them was associated with steady improvement and higher scores at 12 months. Appraisal processes are relevant to both spine-specific disability and mental-health functioning. Such processes are modifiable objects of attention for personalizing spine-surgery outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1545
JournalJournal of Personalized Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Oswestry Disability Index
  • cognitive appraisal
  • disability
  • mental health functioning
  • quality of life
  • spine surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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