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Oral Presentations

2010 AANS Annual Meeting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 1–5, 2010

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Sanjay Yadla, Jennifer Malone, Peter G. Campbell, Mitchell G. Maltenfort, James S. Harrop, Ashwini D. Sharan and John K. Ratliff

Object

The reported incidence of complications in spine surgery varies widely. Variable study methodologies may open differing avenues for potential bias, and unclear definitions of perioperative complication make analysis of the literature challenging. Although numerous studies have examined the morbidity associated with specific procedures or diagnoses, no prospective analysis has evaluated the impact of preoperative diagnosis on overall early morbidity in spine surgery. To accurately assess perioperative morbidity in patients undergoing spine surgery, a prospective analysis of all patients who underwent spine surgery by the neurosurgical service at a large tertiary care center over a 6-month period was conducted. The correlation between preoperative diagnosis and the incidence of postoperative complications was assessed.

Methods

Data were prospectively collected on 248 consecutive patients undergoing spine surgery performed by the neurosurgical service at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital from May to December 2008. A standardized definition of minor and major complications was applied to all adverse events occurring within 30 days of surgery. Data on diagnosis, complications, and length of stay were retrospectively assessed using stepwise multivariate analysis. Patients were analyzed by preoperative diagnosis (neoplasm, infection, degenerative disease, trauma) and level of surgery (cervical or thoracolumbar).

Results

Total early complication incidence was 53.2%, with a minor complication incidence of 46.4% and a major complication incidence of 21.3%. Preoperative diagnosis correlated only with the occurrence of minor complications in the overall cohort (p = 0.02). In patients undergoing surgery of the thoracolumbar spine, preoperative diagnosis correlated with presence of a complication and the number of complications (p = 0.003). Within this group, patients with preoperative diagnoses of infection and neoplasm were more often affected by isolated and multiple complications (p = 0.05 and p = 0.02, respectively). Surgeries across the cervicothoracic and thoracolumbar junctions were associated with higher incidences of overall complication than cervical or lumbar surgery alone (p = 0.04 and p = 0.03, respectively). Median length of stay was 5 days for patients without a complication. Length of stay was significantly greater for patients with a minor complication (10 days, p < 0.0001) and even greater for patients with a major complication (14 days, p < 0.0001).

Conclusions

The incidence of complications found in this prospective analysis is higher than that reported in previous studies. This association may be due to a greater accuracy of record-keeping, absence of recall bias via prospective data collection, high complexity of pathology and surgical approaches, or application of a more liberal definition of what constitutes a complication. Further large-scale prospective studies using clear definitions of complication are necessary to ascertain the true incidence of early postoperative complications in spine surgery.

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Peter G. Campbell, Jennifer Malone, Sanjay Yadla, Rohan Chitale, Rani Nasser, Mitchell G. Maltenfort, Alex Vaccaro and John K. Ratliff

Object

Large studies of ICD-9–based complication and hospital-acquired condition (HAC) chart reviews have not been validated through a comparison with prospective assessments of perioperative adverse event occurrence. Retrospective chart review, while generally assumed to underreport complication occurrence, has not been subjected to prospective study. It is unclear whether ICD-9–based population studies are more accurate than retrospective reviews or are perhaps equally susceptible to bias. To determine the validity of an ICD-9–based assessment of perioperative complications, the authors compared a prospective independent evaluation of such complications with ICD-9–based HAC data in a cohort of patients who underwent spine surgery. For further comparison, a separate retrospective review of the same cohort of patients was completed as well.

Methods

A prospective assessment of complications in spine surgery over a 6-month period (May to December 2008) was completed using an independent auditor and a validated definition of perioperative complications. The auditor maintained a prospective database, which included complications occurring in the initial 30 days after surgery. All medical adverse events were included in the assessment. All patients undergoing spine surgery during the study period were eligible for inclusion; the only exclusionary criterion used was the availability of the auditor for patient assessment. From the overall patient database, 100 patients were randomly extracted for further review; in these patients ICD-9–based HAC data were obtained from coder data. Separately, a retrospective assessment of complication incidence was completed using chart and electronic medical record review. The same definition of perioperative adverse events and the inclusion of medical adverse events were applied in the prospective, ICD-9–based, and retrospective assessments.

Results

Ninety-two patients had adequate records for the ICD-9 assessment, whereas 98 patients had adequate chart information for retrospective review. The overall complication incidence among the groups was similar (major complications: ICD-9 17.4%, retrospective 19.4%, and prospective 22.4%; minor complications: ICD-9 43.8%, retrospective 31.6%, and prospective 42.9%). However, the ICD-9–based assessment included many minor medical events not deemed complications by the auditor. Rates of specific complications were consistently underreported in both the ICD-9 and the retrospective assessments. The ICD-9 assessment underreported infection, the need for reoperation, deep wound infection, deep venous thrombosis, and new neurological deficits (p = 0.003, p < 0.0001, p < 0.0001, p = 0.0025, and p = 0.04, respectively). The retrospective review underestimated incidences of infection, the need for revision, and deep wound infection (p < 0.0001 for each). Only in the capture of new cardiac events was ICD-9–based reporting more accurate than prospective data accrual (p = 0.04). The most sensitive measure for the appreciation of complication occurrence was the prospective review, followed by the ICD-9–based assessment (p = 0.05).

Conclusions

An ICD-9–based coding of perioperative adverse events and major complications in a cohort of spine surgery patients revealed an overall complication incidence similar to that in a prospectively executed measure. In contrast, a retrospective review underestimated complication incidence. The ICD-9–based review captured many medical events of limited clinical import, inflating the overall incidence of adverse events demonstrated by this approach. In multiple categories of major, clinically significant perioperative complications, ICD-9–based and retrospective assessments significantly underestimated complication incidence. These findings illustrate a significant potential weakness and source of inaccuracy in the use of population-based ICD-9 and retrospective complication recording.

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Peter G. Campbell, Sanjay Yadla, Jennifer Malone, Mitchell G. Maltenfort, James S. Harrop, Ashwini D. Sharan and John K. Ratliff

Object

Prospective examination of perioperative complications in spine surgery is limited in the literature. The authors prospectively collected data on patients who underwent spinal fusion at a tertiary care center and evaluated the effect of spinal fusion and comorbidities on perioperative complications.

Methods

Between May and December 2008 data were collected prospectively in 248 patients admitted to the authors' institution for spine surgery. The 202 patients undergoing spine surgery with instrumentation were further analyzed in this report. Perioperative complications occurring within the initial 30 days after surgery were included. All adverse occurrences, whether directly related to surgery, were included in the analysis.

Results

Overall, 114 (56.4%) of 202 patients experienced at least one perioperative complication. Instrumented fusions were associated with more minor complications (p = 0.001) and more overall complications (0.0024). Furthermore, in the thoracic and lumbar spine, complications increased based on the number of levels fused. Advanced patient age and certain comorbidities such as diabetes, cardiac disease, or a history of malignancy were also associated with an increased incidence of complications.

Conclusions

Using a prospective methodology with a broad definition of complications, the authors report a significantly higher perioperative incidence of complications than previously indicated after spinal fusion procedures. Given the increased application of instrumentation, especially for degenerative disease, a better estimate of clinically relevant surgical complications could aid spine surgeons and patients in an individualized complication index to facilitate a more thorough risk-benefit analysis prior to surgery.

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Peter G. Campbell, Sanjay Yadla, Rani Nasser, Jennifer Malone, Mitchell G. Maltenfort and John K. Ratliff

Object

Present attempts to control health care costs focus on reducing the incidence of complications and hospital-acquired conditions (HACs). One approach uses restriction or elimination of hospital payments for HACs. Present approaches assume that all HACs are created equal and that payment restrictions should be applied uniformly. Patient factors, and especially patient comorbidities, likely impact complication incidence. The relationship of patient comorbidities and complication incidence in spine surgery has not been prospectively reported.

Methods

The authors conducted a prospective assessment of complications in spine surgery during a 6-month period; an independent auditor and a validated definition of perioperative complications were used. Initial demographics captured relevant patient comorbidities. The authors constructed a model of relative risk assessment based on the presence of a variety of comorbidities. They examined the impact of specific comorbidities and the cumulative effect of multiple comorbidities on complication incidence.

Results

Two hundred forty-nine patients undergoing 259 procedures at a tertiary care facility were evaluated during the 6-month duration of the study. Eighty percent of the patients underwent fusion procedures. One hundred thirty patients (52.2%) experienced at least 1 complication, with major complications occurring in 21.4% and minor complications in 46.4% of the cohort. Major complications doubled the median duration of hospital stay, from 6 to 12 days in cervical spine patients and from 7 to 14 days in thoracolumbar spine patients. At least 1 comorbid condition was present in 86% of the patients. An increasing number of comorbidities strongly correlated with increased risk of major, minor, and any complications (p = 0.017, p < 0.0001, and p < 0.0001, respectively). Patient factors correlating with increased risk of specific complications included systemic malignancy and cardiac conditions other than hypertension.

Conclusions

Comorbidities significantly increase the risk of perioperative complications. An increasing number of comorbidities in an individual patient significantly increases the risk of a perioperative adverse event. Patient factors significantly impact the relative risk of HACs and perioperative complications.