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Editorial

Surgical complications in adult spondylolisthesis

Michael G. Fehlings and Doron Rabin

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Amit Jain, Hamid Hassanzadeh, Varun Puvanesarajah, Eric O. Klineberg, Daniel M. Sciubba, Michael P. Kelly, D. Kojo Hamilton, Virginie Lafage, Aaron J. Buckland, Peter G. Passias, Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Renaud Lafage, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Khaled M. Kebaish and the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Using 2 complication-reporting methods, the authors investigated the incidence of major medical complications and mortality in elderly patients after surgery for adult spinal deformity (ASD) during a 2-year follow-up period.

METHODS

The authors queried a multicenter, prospective, surgeon-maintained database (SMD) to identify patients 65 years or older who underwent surgical correction of ASD from 2008 through 2014 and had a minimum 2 years of follow-up (n = 153). They also queried a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services claims database (MCD) for patients 65 years or older who underwent fusion of 8 or more vertebral levels from 2005 through 2012 (n = 3366). They calculated cumulative rates of the following complications during the first 6 weeks after surgery: cerebrovascular accident, congestive heart failure, deep venous thrombosis, myocardial infarction, pneumonia, and pulmonary embolism. Significance was set at p < 0.05.

RESULTS

During the perioperative period, rates of major medical complications were 5.9% for pneumonia, 4.1% for deep venous thrombosis, 3.2% for pulmonary embolism, 2.1% for cerebrovascular accident, 1.8% for myocardial infarction, and 1.0% for congestive heart failure. Mortality rates were 0.9% at 6 weeks and 1.8% at 2 years. When comparing the SMD with the MCD, there were no significant differences in the perioperative rates of major medical complications except pneumonia. Furthermore, there were no significant intergroup differences in the mortality rates at 6 weeks or 2 years. The SMD provided greater detail with respect to deformity characteristics and surgical variables than the MCD.

CONCLUSIONS

The incidence of most major medical complications in the elderly after surgery for ASD was similar between the SMD and the MCD and ranged from 1% for congestive heart failure to 5.9% for pneumonia. These complications data can be valuable for preoperative patient counseling and informed consent.

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Charles A. Sansur, Davis L. Reames, Justin S. Smith, D. Kojo Hamilton, Sigurd H. Berven, Paul A. Broadstone, Theodore J. Choma, Michael James Goytan, Hilali H. Noordeen, Dennis Raymond Knapp Jr., Robert A. Hart, Reinhard D. Zeller, William F. Donaldson III, David W. Polly Jr., Joseph H. Perra, Oheneba Boachie-Adjei and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Object

This is a retrospective review of 10,242 adults with degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS) and isthmic spondylolisthesis (IS) from the morbidity and mortality (M&M) index of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS). This database was reviewed to assess complication incidence, and to identify factors that were associated with increased complication rates.

Methods

The SRS M&M database was queried to identify cases of DS and IS treated between 2004 and 2007. Complications were identified and analyzed based on age, surgical approach, spondylolisthesis type/grade, and history of previous surgery. Age was stratified into 2 categories: > 65 years and ≤ 65 years. Surgical approach was stratified into the following categories: decompression without fusion, anterior, anterior/posterior, posterior without instrumentation, posterior with instrumentation, and interbody fusion. Spondylolisthesis grades were divided into low-grade (Meyerding I and II) versus high-grade (Meyerding III, IV, and V) groups. Both univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.

Results

In the 10,242 cases of DS and IS reported, there were 945 complications (9.2%) in 813 patients (7.9%). The most common complications were dural tears, wound infections, implant complications, and neurological complications (range 0.7%–2.1%). The mortality rate was 0.1%. Diagnosis of DS had a significantly higher complication rate (8.5%) when compared with IS (6.6%; p = 0.002). High-grade spondylolisthesis correlated strongly with a higher complication rate (22.9% vs 8.3%, p < 0.0001). Age > 65 years was associated with a significantly higher complication rate (p = 0.02). History of previous surgery and surgical approach were not significantly associated with higher complication rates. On multivariate analysis, only the grade of spondylolisthesis (low vs high) was in the final best-fit model of factors associated with the occurrence of complications (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions

The rate of total complications for treatment of DS and IS in this series was 9.2%. The total percentage of patients with complications was 7.9%. On univariate analysis, the complication rate was significantly higher in patients with high-grade spondylolisthesis, a diagnosis of DS, and in older patients. Surgical approach and history of previous surgery were not significantly correlated with increased complication rates. On multivariate analysis, only the grade of spondylolisthesis was significantly associated with the occurrence of complications.

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Justin S. Smith, Eric Klineberg, Virginie Lafage, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Frank Schwab, Renaud Lafage, Richard Hostin, Gregory M. Mundis Jr., Thomas J. Errico, Han Jo Kim, Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, D. Kojo Hamilton, Justin K. Scheer, Alex Soroceanu, Michael P. Kelly, Breton Line, Munish Gupta, Vedat Deviren, Robert Hart, Douglas C. Burton, Shay Bess, Christopher P. Ames and the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Although multiple reports have documented significant benefit from surgical treatment of adult spinal deformity (ASD), these procedures can have high complication rates. Previously reported complications rates associated with ASD surgery are limited by retrospective design, single-surgeon or single-center cohorts, lack of rigorous data on complications, and/or limited follow-up. Accurate definition of complications associated with ASD surgery is important and may serve as a resource for patient counseling and efforts to improve the safety of patient care. The authors conducted a study to prospectively assess the rates of complications associated with ASD surgery with a minimum 2-year follow-up based on a multicenter study design that incorporated standardized data-collection forms, on-site study coordinators, and regular auditing of data to help ensure complete and accurate reporting of complications. In addition, they report age stratification of complication rates and provide a general assessment of factors that may be associated with the occurrence of complications.

METHODS

As part of a prospective, multicenter ASD database, standardized forms were used to collect data on surgery-related complications. On-site coordinators and central auditing helped ensure complete capture of complication data. Inclusion criteria were age older than 18 years, ASD, and plan for operative treatment. Complications were classified as perioperative (within 6 weeks of surgery) or delayed (between 6 weeks after surgery and time of last follow-up), and as minor or major. The primary focus for analyses was on patients who reached a minimum follow-up of 2 years.

RESULTS

Of 346 patients who met the inclusion criteria, 291 (84%) had a minimum 2-year follow-up (mean 2.1 years); their mean age was 56.2 years. The vast majority (99%) had treatment including a posterior procedure, 25% had an anterior procedure, and 19% had a 3-column osteotomy. At least 1 revision was required in 82 patients (28.2%). A total of 270 perioperative complications (145 minor; 125 major) were reported, with 152 patients (52.2%) affected, and a total of 199 delayed complications (62 minor; 137 major) were reported, with 124 patients (42.6%) affected. Overall, 469 complications (207 minor; 262 major) were documented, with 203 patients (69.8%) affected. The most common complication categories included implant related, radiographic, neurological, operative, cardiopulmonary, and infection. Higher complication rates were associated with older age (p = 0.009), greater body mass index (p ≤ 0.031), increased comorbidities (p ≤ 0.007), previous spine fusion (p = 0.029), and 3-column osteotomies (p = 0.036). Cases in which 2-year follow-up was not achieved included 2 perioperative mortalities (pulmonary embolus and inferior vena cava injury).

CONCLUSIONS

This study provides an assessment of complications associated with ASD surgery based on a prospective, multicenter design and with a minimum 2-year follow-up. Although the overall complication rates were high, in interpreting these findings, it is important to recognize that not all complications are equally impactful. This study represents one of the most complete and detailed reports of perioperative and delayed complications associated with ASD surgery to date. These findings may prove useful for treatment planning, patient counseling, benchmarking of complication rates, and efforts to improve the safety and cost-effectiveness of patient care.