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Zoher Ghogawala, Daniel K. Resnick, Steven D. Glassman, James Dziura, Christopher I. Shaffrey and Praveen V. Mummaneni

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Khoi D. Than, Jill N. Curran, Daniel K. Resnick, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Zoher Ghogawala and Praveen V. Mummaneni


To date, the factors that predict whether a patient returns to work after lumbar discectomy are poorly understood. Information on postoperative work status is important in analyzing the cost-effectiveness of the procedure.


An observational prospective cohort study was completed at 13 academic and community sites (NeuroPoint–Spinal Disorders [NeuroPoint-SD] registry). Patients undergoing single-level lumbar discectomy were included. Variables assessed included age, sex, body mass index (BMI), SF-36 physical function score, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score, presence of diabetes, smoking status, systemic illness, workers' compensation status, and preoperative work status. The primary outcome was working status within 3 months after surgery. Stepwise logistic regression analysis was performed to determine which factors were predictive of return to work at 3 months following discectomy.


There were 127 patients (of 148 total) with data collected 3 months postoperatively. The patients' average age at the time of surgery was 46 ± 1 years, and 66.9% of patients were working 3 months postoperatively. Statistical analyses demonstrated that the patients more likely to return to work were those of younger age (44.5 years vs 50.5 years, p = 0.008), males (55.3% vs 28.6%, p = 0.005), those with higher preoperative SF-36 physical function scores (44.0 vs 30.3, p = 0.002), those with lower preoperative ODI scores (43.8 vs 52.6, p = 0.01), nonsmokers (83.5% vs 66.7%, p = 0.03), and those who were working preoperatively (91.8% vs 26.2%, p < 0.0001). When controlling for patients who were working preoperatively (105 patients), only age was a statistically significant predictor of postoperative return to work (44.1 years vs 51.1 years, p = 0.049).


In this cohort of lumbar discectomy patients, preoperative working status was the strongest predictor of postoperative working status 3 months after surgery. Younger age was also a predictor. Factors not influencing return to work in the logistic regression analysis included sex, BMI, SF-36 physical function score, ODI score, presence of diabetes, smoking status, and systemic illness.

Clinical trial registration no.: 01220921 (

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Michael G. Kaiser, Michael W. Groff, William C. Watters III, Zoher Ghogawala, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Andrew T. Dailey, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Alok Sharan, Jeffrey C. Wang, Sanjay S. Dhall and Daniel K. Resnick

In an attempt to enhance the potential to achieve a solid arthrodesis and avoid the morbidity of harvesting autologous iliac crest bone (AICB) for a lumbar fusion, numerous alternatives have been investigated. The use of these fusion adjuncts has become routine despite a lack of convincing evidence demonstrating a benefit to justify added costs or potential harm. Potential alternatives to AICB include locally harvested autograft, calcium-phosphate salts, demineralized bone matrix (DBM), and the family of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). In particular, no option has created greater controversy than the BMPs. A significant increase in the number of publications, particularly with respect to the BMPs, has taken place since the release of the original guidelines. Both DBM and the calciumphosphate salts have demonstrated efficacy as a graft extender or as a substitute for AICB when combined with local autograft. The use of recombinant human BMP-2 (rhBMP-2) as a substitute for AICB, when performing an interbody lumbar fusion, is considered an option since similar outcomes have been observed; however, the potential for heterotopic bone formation is a concern. The use of rhBMP-2, when combined with calcium phosphates, as a substitute for AICB, or as an extender, when used with local autograft or AICB, is also considered an option as similar fusion rates and clinical outcomes have been observed. Surgeons electing to use BMPs should be aware of a growing body of literature demonstrating unique complications associated with the use of BMPs.

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Zoher Ghogawala, Robert G. Whitmore, William C. Watters III, Alok Sharan, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Andrew T. Dailey, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Jeffrey C. Wang, Daniel K. Resnick, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

A comprehensive economic analysis generally involves the calculation of indirect and direct health costs from a societal perspective as opposed to simply reporting costs from a hospital or payer perspective. Hospital charges for a surgical procedure must be converted to cost data when performing a cost-effectiveness analysis. Once cost data has been calculated, quality-adjusted life year data from a surgical treatment are calculated by using a preference-based health-related quality-of-life instrument such as the EQ-5D. A recent cost-utility analysis from a single study has demonstrated the long-term (over an 8-year time period) benefits of circumferential fusions over stand-alone posterolateral fusions. In addition, economic analysis from a single study has found that lumbar fusion for selected patients with low-back pain can be recommended from an economic perspective. Recent economic analysis, from a single study, finds that femoral ring allograft might be more cost-effective compared with a specific titanium cage when performing an anterior lumbar interbody fusion plus posterolateral fusion.

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Tanvir F. Choudhri, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Sanjay S. Dhall, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Zoher Ghogawala, William C. Watters III, Andrew T. Dailey, Daniel K. Resnick, Alok Sharan, Jeffrey C. Wang and Michael G. Kaiser

The ability to identify a successful arthrodesis is an essential element in the management of patients undergoing lumbar fusion procedures. The hypothetical gold standard of intraoperative exploration to identify, under direct observation, a solid arthrodesis is an impractical alternative. Therefore, radiographic assessment remains the most viable instrument to evaluate for a successful arthrodesis. Static radiographs, particularly in the presence of instrumentation, are not recommended. In the absence of spinal instrumentation, lack of motion on flexion-extension radiographs is highly suggestive of a successful fusion; however, motion observed at the treated levels does not necessarily predict pseudarthrosis. The degree of motion on dynamic views that would distinguish between a successful arthrodesis and pseudarthrosis has not been clearly defined. Computed tomography with fine-cut axial images and multiplanar views is recommended and appears to be the most sensitive for assessing fusion following instrumented posterolateral and anterior lumbar interbody fusions. For suspected symptomatic pseudarthrosis, a combination of techniques including static and dynamic radiographs as well as CT images is recommended as an option. Lack of facet fusion is considered to be more suggestive of a pseudarthrosis compared with absence of bridging posterolateral bone. Studies exploring additional noninvasive modalities of fusion assessment have demonstrated either poor potential, such as with 99mTc bone scans, or provide insufficient information to formulate a definitive recommendation.

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Michael G. Kaiser, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Zoher Ghogawala, William C. Watters III, Andrew T. Dailey, Daniel K. Resnick, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Alok Sharan, Jeffrey C. Wang, Sanjay S. Dhall and Praveen V. Mummaneni

The relationship between the formation of a solid arthrodesis and electrical and electromagnetic energy is well established; most of the information on the topic, however, pertains to the healing of long bone fractures. The use of both invasive and noninvasive means to supply this energy and supplement spinal fusions has been investigated. Three forms of electrical stimulation are routinely used: direct current stimulation (DCS), pulsed electromagnetic field stimulation (PEMFS), and capacitive coupled electrical stimulation (CCES). Only DCS requires the placement of electrodes within the fusion substrate and is inserted at the time of surgery. Since publication of the original guidelines, few studies have investigated the use of bone growth stimulators. Based on the current review, no conflict with the previous recommendations was generated. The use of DCS is recommended as an option for patients younger than 60 years of age, since a positive effect on fusion has been observed. The same, however, cannot be stated for patients over 60, because DCS did not appear to have an impact on fusion rates in this population. No study was reviewed that investigated the use of CCES or the routine use of PEMFS. A single low-level study demonstrated a positive impact of PEMFS on patients undergoing revision surgery for pseudarthrosis, but this single study is insufficient to recommend for or against the use of PEMFS in this patient population.

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Sanjay S. Dhall, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, Zoher Ghogawala, William C. Watters III, Andrew T. Dailey, Daniel K. Resnick, Alok Sharan, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Jeffrey C. Wang and Michael G. Kaiser

In an effort to diminish pain or progressive instability, due to either the pathological process or as a result of surgical decompression, one of the primary goals of a fusion procedure is to achieve a solid arthrodesis. Assuming that pain and disability result from lost mechanical integrity of the spine, the objective of a fusion across an unstable segment is to eliminate pathological motion and improve clinical outcome. However, conclusive evidence of this correlation, between successful fusion and clinical outcome, remains elusive, and thus the necessity of documenting successful arthrodesis through radiographic analysis remains debatable. Although a definitive cause and effect relationship has not been demonstrated, there is moderate evidence that demonstrates a positive association between radiographic presence of fusion and improved clinical outcome. Due to this growing body of literature, it is recommended that strategies intended to enhance the potential for radiographic fusion are considered when performing a lumbar arthrodesis for degenerative spine disease.

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Michael G. Kaiser, Jason C. Eck, Michael W. Groff, William C. Watters III, Andrew T. Dailey, Daniel K. Resnick, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Alok Sharan, Jeffrey C. Wang, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Sanjay S. Dhall and Zoher Ghogawala

Fusion procedures are an accepted and successful management strategy to alleviate pain and/or neurological symptoms associated with degenerative disease of the lumbar spine. In 2005, the first version of the “Guidelines for the performance of fusion procedures for degenerative disease of the lumbar spine” was published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine. In an effort to incorporate evidence obtained since the original publication of these guidelines, an expert panel of neurosurgical and orthopedic spine specialists was convened in 2009. Topics reviewed were essentially identical to the original publication. Selected manuscripts from the first iteration of these guidelines as well as relevant publications between 2005 through 2011 were reviewed. Several modifications to the methodology of guideline development were adopted for the current update. In contrast to the 2005 guidelines, a 5-tiered level of evidence strategy was employed, primarily allowing a distinction between lower levels of evidence. The qualitative descriptors (standards/guidelines/options) used in the 2005 recommendations were abandoned and replaced with grades to reflect the strength of medical evidence supporting the recommendation. Recommendations that conflicted with the original publication, if present, were highlighted at the beginning of each chapter. As with the original guideline publication, the intent of this update is to provide a foundation from which an appropriate treatment strategy can be formulated.

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Alok Sharan, Michael W. Groff, Andrew T. Dailey, Zoher Ghogawala, Daniel K. Resnick, William C. Watters III, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Tanvir F. Choudhri, Jason C. Eck, Jeffrey C. Wang, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

Intraoperative monitoring (IOM) is commonly used during lumbar fusion surgery for the prevention of nerve root injury. Justification for its use stems from the belief that IOM can prevent nerve root injury during the placement of pedicle screws. A thorough literature review was conducted to determine if the use of IOM could prevent nerve root injury during the placement of instrumentation in lumbar or lumbosacral fusion. There is no evidence to date that IOM can prevent injury to the nerve roots. There is limited evidence that a threshold below 5 mA from direct stimulation of the screw can indicate a medial pedicle breach by the screw. Unfortunately, once a nerve root injury has taken place, changing the direction of the screw does not alter the outcome. The recommendations formulated in the original guideline effort are neither supported nor refuted with the evidence obtained with the current studies.

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Andrew T. Dailey, Zoher Ghogawala, Tanvir F. Choudhri, William C. Watters III, Daniel K. Resnick, Alok Sharan, Jason C. Eck, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Jeffrey C. Wang, Michael W. Groff, Sanjay S. Dhall and Michael G. Kaiser

The utilization of orthotic devices for lumbar degenerative disease has been justified from both a prognostic and therapeutic perspective. As a prognostic tool, bracing is applied prior to surgery to determine if immobilization of the spine leads to symptomatic relief and thus justify the performance of a fusion. Since bracing does not eliminate motion, the validity of this assumption is questionable. Only one low-level study has investigated the predictive value of bracing prior to surgery. No correlation between response to bracing and fusion outcome was observed; therefore a trial of preoperative bracing is not recommended. Based on low-level evidence, the use of bracing is not recommended for the prevention of low-back pain in a general working population, since the incidence of low-back pain and impact on productivity were not reduced. However, in laborers with a history of back pain, a positive impact on lost workdays was observed when bracing was applied. Bracing is recommended as an option for treatment of subacute low-back pain, as several higher-level studies have demonstrated an improvement in pain scores and function. The use of bracing following instrumented posterolateral fusion, however, is not recommended, since equivalent outcomes have been demonstrated with or without the application of a brace.