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Nitin Agarwal, Prateek Agarwal, Ashley Querry, Anna Mazurkiewicz, Zachary J. Tempel, Robert M. Friedlander, Peter C. Gerszten, D. Kojo Hamilton, David O. Okonkwo and Adam S. Kanter

OBJECTIVE

Previous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of infection prevention protocols in reducing infection rates. This study investigated the effects of the development and implementation of an infection prevention protocol that was augmented by increased physician awareness of spinal fusion surgical site infection (SSI) rates and resultant cost savings.

METHODS

A cohort clinical investigation over a 10-year period was performed at a single tertiary spine care academic institution. Preoperative infection control measures (chlorohexidine gluconate bathing, Staphylococcus aureus nasal screening and decolonization) followed by postoperative infection control measures (surgical dressing care) were implemented. After the implementation of these infection control measures, an awareness intervention was instituted in which all attending and resident neurosurgeons were informed of their individual, independently adjudicated spinal fusion surgery infection rates and rankings among their peers. During the course of these interventions, the overall infection rate was tracked as well as the rates for those neurosurgeons who complied with the preoperative and postoperative infection control measures (protocol group) and those who did not (control group).

RESULTS

With the implementation of postoperative surgical dressing infection control measures and physician awareness, the postoperative spine surgery infection rate decreased by 45% from 3.8% to 2.1% (risk ratio 0.55; 95% CI 0.32–0.93; p = 0.03) for those in the protocol cohort, resulting in an estimated annual cost savings of $291,000. This reduction in infection rate was not observed for neurosurgeons in the control group, although the overall infection rate among all neurosurgeons decreased by 54% from 3.3% to 1.5% (risk ratio 0.46; 95% CI 0.28–0.73; p = 0.0013).

CONCLUSIONS

A novel paradigm for spine surgery infection control combined with physician awareness methods resulted in significantly decreased SSI rates and an associated cost reduction. Thus, information sharing and physician engagement as a supplement to formal infection control measures result in improvements in surgical outcomes and costs.

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Nitin Agarwal, Robert F. Heary and Prateek Agarwal

OBJECTIVE

Pedicle screw fixation is a technique widely used to treat conditions ranging from spine deformity to fracture stabilization. Pedicle screws have been used traditionally in the lumbar spine; however, they are now being used with increasing frequency in the thoracic spine as a more favorable alternative to hooks, wires, or cables. Although safety concerns, such as the incidence of adjacent-segment disease (ASD) after cervical and lumbar fusions, have been reported, such issues in the thoracic spine have yet to be addressed thoroughly. Here, the authors review the literature on ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation and report their own experience specifically involving the use of pedicle screws in the thoracic spine.

METHODS

Select references from online databases, such as PubMed (provided by the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health), were used to survey the literature concerning ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation. To include the authors’ experience at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database was performed to determine the incidence of complications over a 13-year period in 123 consecutive adult patients who underwent thoracic pedicle screw fixation. Children, pregnant or lactating women, and prisoners were excluded from the review. By comparing preoperative and postoperative radiographic images, the occurrence of thoracic ASD and disease within the surgical construct was determined.

RESULTS

Definitive radiographic fusion was detected in 115 (93.5%) patients. Seven incidences of instrumentation failure and 8 lucencies surrounding the screws were observed. One patient was observed to have ASD of the thoracic spine. The mean follow-up duration was 50 months.

CONCLUSIONS

This long-term radiographic evaluation revealed the use of pedicle screws for thoracic fixation to be an effective stabilization modality. In particular, ASD seems to be less of a problem in the relatively immobile thoracic spine than in the more mobile cervical and lumbar spines.