Spine surgery has been identified as a significant source of healthcare expenditures in the United States. Prolonged hospitalization has been cited as one source of increased spending, and there has been drive from providers and payors alike to decrease inpatient stays. One strategy currently being explored is the use of Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols. Here, the authors review the literature on adult spine ERAS protocols, focusing on clinical benefits and cost reductions. They also conducted a quantitative meta-analysis examining the following: 1) length of stay (LOS), 2) complication rate, 3) wound infection rate, 4) 30-day readmission rate, and 5) 30-day reoperation rate.
Using the PRISMA guidelines, a search of the PubMed/Medline, Web of Science, Cochrane Reviews, Embase, CINAHL, and OVID Medline databases was conducted to identify all full-text articles in the English-language literature describing ERAS protocol implementation for adult spine surgery. A quantitative meta-analysis using random-effects modeling was performed for the identified clinical outcomes using studies that directly compared ERAS protocols with conventional care.
Of 950 articles reviewed, 34 were included in the qualitative analysis and 20 were included in the quantitative analysis. The most common protocol types were general spine surgery protocols and protocols for lumbar spine surgery patients. The most frequently cited benefits of ERAS protocols were shorter LOS (n = 12), lower postoperative pain scores (n = 6), and decreased complication rates (n = 4). The meta-analysis demonstrated shorter LOS for the general spine surgery (mean difference −1.22 days [95% CI −1.98 to −0.47]) and lumbar spine ERAS protocols (−1.53 days [95% CI −2.89 to −0.16]). Neither general nor lumbar spine protocols led to a significant difference in complication rates. Insufficient data existed to perform a meta-analysis of the differences in costs or postoperative narcotic use.
Present data suggest that ERAS protocol implementation may reduce hospitalization time among adult spine surgery patients and may lead to reductions in complication rates when applied to specific populations. To generate high-quality evidence capable of supporting practice guidelines, though, additional controlled trials are necessary to validate these early findings in larger populations.