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Matthew J. McGirt, Scott L. Parker, Silky Chotai, Deborah Pfortmiller, Jeffrey M. Sorenson, Kevin Foley and Anthony L. Asher

OBJECTIVE

Extended hospital length of stay (LOS), unplanned hospital readmission, and need for inpatient rehabilitation after elective spine surgery contribute significantly to the variation in surgical health care costs. As novel payment models shift the risk of cost overruns from payers to providers, understanding patient-level risk of LOS, readmission, and inpatient rehabilitation is critical. The authors set out to develop a grading scale that effectively stratifies risk of these costly events after elective surgery for degenerative lumbar pathologies.

METHODS

The Quality and Outcomes Database (QOD) registry prospectively enrolls patients undergoing surgery for degenerative lumbar spine disease. This registry was queried for patients who had undergone elective 1- to 3-level lumbar surgery for degenerative spine pathology. The association between preoperative patient variables and extended postoperative hospital LOS (LOS ≥ 7 days), discharge status (inpatient facility vs home), and 90-day hospital readmission was assessed using stepwise multivariate logistic regression. The Carolina-Semmes grading scale was constructed using the independent predictors for LOS (0–12 points), discharge to inpatient facility (0–18 points), and 90-day readmission (0–6 points), and its performance was assessed using the QOD data set. The performance of the grading scale was then confirmed separately after using it in 2 separate neurosurgery practice sites (Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates [CNSA] and Semmes Murphey Clinic).

RESULTS

A total of 6921 patients were analyzed. Overall, 290 (4.2%) patients required extended LOS, 654 (9.4%) required inpatient facility care/rehabilitation on hospital discharge, and 474 (6.8%) were readmitted to the hospital within 90 days postdischarge. Variables that remained as independently associated with these unplanned events in multivariate analysis included age ≥ 70 years, American Society of Anesthesiologists Physical Classification System class > III, Oswestry Disability Index score ≥ 70, diabetes, Medicare/Medicaid, nonindependent ambulation, and fusion. Increasing point totals in the Carolina-Semmes scale effectively stratified the incidence of extended LOS, discharge to facility, and readmission in a stepwise fashion in both the aggregate QOD data set and when subsequently applied to the CNSA/Semmes Murphey practice groups.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors introduce the Carolina-Semmes grading scale that effectively stratifies the risk of prolonged hospital stay, need for postdischarge inpatient facility care, and 90-day hospital readmission for patients undergoing first-time elective 1- to 3-level degenerative lumbar spine surgery. This grading scale may be helpful in identifying patients who may require additional resource utilization within a global period after surgery.