Surgical treatment for degenerative spondylolisthesis has been proven to be clinically challenging and cost-effective. However, there is a range of thresholds that surgeons utilize for incorporating fusion in addition to decompressive laminectomy in these cases. This study investigates these surgeon- and site-specific factors by using the Quality Outcomes Database (QOD).
The QOD was queried for all cases that had undergone surgery for grade 1 spondylolisthesis from database inception to February 2019. In addition to patient-specific covariates, surgeon-specific covariates included age, sex, race, years in practice (0–10, 11–20, 21–30, > 30 years), and fellowship training. Site-specific variables included hospital location (rural, suburban, urban), teaching versus nonteaching status, and hospital type (government, nonfederal; private, nonprofit; private, investor owned). Multivariable regression and predictor importance analyses were performed to identify predictors of the treatment performed (decompression alone vs decompression and fusion). The model was clustered by site to account for site-specific heterogeneity in treatment selection.
A total of 12,322 cases were included with 1988 (16.1%) that had undergone decompression alone. On multivariable regression analysis clustered by site, adjusting for patient-level clinical covariates, no surgeon-specific factors were found to be significantly associated with the odds of selecting decompression alone as the surgery performed. However, sites located in suburban areas (OR 2.32, 95% CI 1.09–4.84, p = 0.03) were more likely to perform decompression alone (reference = urban). Sites located in rural areas had higher odds of performing decompression alone than hospitals located in urban areas, although the results were not statistically significant (OR 1.33, 95% CI 0.59–2.61, p = 0.49). Nonteaching status was independently associated with lower odds of performing decompression alone (OR 0.40, 95% CI 0.19–0.97, p = 0.04). Predictor importance analysis revealed that the most important determinants of treatment selection were dominant symptom (Wald χ2 = 34.7, accounting for 13.6% of total χ2) and concurrent diagnosis of disc herniation (Wald χ2 = 31.7, accounting for 12.4% of total χ2). Hospital teaching status was also found to be relatively important (Wald χ2 = 4.2, accounting for 1.6% of total χ2) but less important than other patient-level predictors.
Nonteaching centers were more likely to perform decompressive laminectomy with supplemental fusion for spondylolisthesis. Suburban hospitals were more likely to perform decompression only. Surgeon characteristics were not found to influence treatment selection after adjustment for clinical covariates. Further large database registry experience from surgeons at high-volume academic centers at which surgically and medically complex patients are treated may provide additional insight into factors associated with treatment preference for degenerative spondylolisthesis.