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Anthony L. Asher, Clinton J. Devin, Brandon McCutcheon, Silky Chotai, Kristin R. Archer, Hui Nian, Frank E. Harrell Jr., Matthew McGirt, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Kevin Foley, Steven D. Glassman and Mohamad Bydon


In this analysis the authors compare the characteristics of smokers to nonsmokers using demographic, socioeconomic, and comorbidity variables. They also investigate which of these characteristics are most strongly associated with smoking status. Finally, the authors investigate whether the association between known patient risk factors and disability outcome is differentially modified by patient smoking status for those who have undergone surgery for lumbar degeneration.


A total of 7547 patients undergoing degenerative lumbar surgery were entered into a prospective multicenter registry (Quality Outcomes Database [QOD]). A retrospective analysis of the prospectively collected data was conducted. Patients were dichotomized as smokers (current smokers) and nonsmokers. Multivariable logistic regression analysis fitted for patient smoking status and subsequent measurement of variable importance was performed to identify the strongest patient characteristics associated with smoking status. Multivariable linear regression models fitted for 12-month Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores in subsets of smokers and nonsmokers was performed to investigate whether differential effects of risk factors by smoking status might be present.


In total, 18% (n = 1365) of patients were smokers and 82% (n = 6182) were nonsmokers. In a multivariable logistic regression analysis, the factors significantly associated with patients’ smoking status were sex (p < 0.0001), age (p < 0.0001), body mass index (p < 0.0001), educational status (p < 0.0001), insurance status (p < 0.001), and employment/occupation (p = 0.0024). Patients with diabetes had lowers odds of being a smoker (p = 0.0008), while patients with coronary artery disease had greater odds of being a smoker (p = 0.044). Patients’ propensity for smoking was also significantly associated with higher American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) class (p < 0.0001), anterior-alone surgical approach (p = 0.018), greater number of levels (p = 0.0246), decompression only (p = 0.0001), and higher baseline ODI score (p < 0.0001). In a multivariable proportional odds logistic regression model, the adjusted odds ratio of risk factors and direction of improvement in 12-month ODI scores remained similar between the subsets of smokers and nonsmokers.


Using a large, national, multiinstitutional registry, the authors described the profile of patients who undergo lumbar spine surgery and its association with their smoking status. Compared with nonsmokers, smokers were younger, male, nondiabetic, nonobese patients presenting with leg pain more so than back pain, with higher ASA classes, higher disability, less education, more likely to be unemployed, and with Medicaid/uninsured insurance status. Smoking status did not affect the association between these risk factors and 12-month ODI outcome, suggesting that interventions for modifiable risk factors are equally efficacious between smokers and nonsmokers.

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Richard P. Menger, Bharat Guthikonda, Christopher M. Storey, Anil Nanda, Matthew McGirt and Anthony Asher

Neurosurgeons provide direct individualized care to patients. However, the majority of regulations affecting the relative value of patient-related care are drafted by policy experts whose focus is typically system- and population-based. A central, prospectively gathered, national outcomes-related database serves as neurosurgery’s best opportunity to bring patient-centered outcomes to the policy arena.

In this study the authors analyze the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the determination of quality and value in neurosurgery care through the scope, language, and terminology of policy experts. The methods by which the ACA came into law and the subsequent quality implications this legislation has for neurosurgery will be discussed. The necessity of neurosurgical patient-oriented clinical registries will be discussed in the context of imminent and dramatic reforms related to medical cost containment.

In the policy debate moving forward, the strength of neurosurgery’s argument will rest on data, unity, and proactiveness. The National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database (N2QOD) allows neurosurgeons to generate objective data on specialty-specific value and quality determinations; it allows neurosurgeons to bring the patient-physician interaction to the policy debate.

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W. Peter Vandertop

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Beril Gok, Daniel M. Sciubba, Gregory S. McLoughlin, Matthew McGirt, Selim Ayhan, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Timothy F. Witham


In patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM), ventral disease and loss of cervical lordosis are considered to be relative indications for anterior surgery. However, anterior decompression and fusion operations may be associated with an increased risk of swallowing difficulty and an increased risk of nonunion when extensive decompression is performed. The authors reviewed cases involving patients with CSM treated via an anterior approach, paying special attention to neurological outcome, fusion rates, and complications.


Retrospectively, 67 cases involving consecutive patients with CSM requiring an anterior decompression were reviewed: 46 patients underwent anterior surgery only (1-to3-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion [ACDF] or 1-level corpectomy), and 21 patients who required > 3-level ACDF or ≥ 2-level corpectomy underwent anterior surgery supplemented by a posterior instrumented fusion procedure.


Postoperative improvement in Nurick grade was seen in 43 (93%) of 46 patients undergoing anterior decompression and fusion alone (p < 0.001) and in 17 (81%) of 21 patients undergoing anterior decompression and fusion with supplemental posterior fusion (p = 0.0015). The overall complication rate for this series was 25.4%. Interestingly, the overall complication rate was similar for both the lone anterior surgery and combined anterior-posterior groups, but the incidence of adjacent-segment disease was greater in the lone anterior surgery group.


Significant improvement in Nurick grade can be achieved in patients who undergo anterior surgery for cervical myelopathy for primarily ventral disease or loss of cervical lordosis. In selected high-risk patients who undergo multilevel ventral decompression, supplemental posterior fixation and arthrodesis allows for low rates of construct failure with acceptable added morbidity.