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Clinical outcomes research in spine surgery: what are appropriate follow-up times?

Presented at the 2018 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Oliver G. S. Ayling, Tamir Ailon, Greg McIntosh, Alex Soroceanu, Hamilton Hall, Andrew Nataraj, Christopher S. Bailey, Sean Christie, Alexandra Stratton, Henry Ahn, Michael Johnson, Jerome Paquet, Kenneth Thomas, Neil Manson, Y. Raja Rampersaud and Charles G. Fisher

OBJECTIVE

There has been a generic dictum in spine and musculoskeletal clinical research that a minimum 2-year follow-up is necessary for patient-reported outcomes (PROs) to adequately assess the therapeutic effect of surgery; however, the rationale for this duration is not evidence based. The purpose of this study was to determine the follow-up time necessary to ensure that the effectiveness of a lumbar surgical intervention is adequately captured for three lumbar pathologies and three common PROs.

METHODS

Using the different PROs of pain, physical function, and mental quality of life from the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network (CSORN) prospective database, the authors assessed the time course to the recovery plateau following lumbar spine surgery for lumbar disc herniation, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis. One-way ANOVA with post hoc testing was used to compare scores on the following standardized PRO measures at baseline and 3, 12, and 24 months postoperatively: Disability Scale (DS), visual analog scale (VAS) for leg and back pain, and SF-12 Mental Component Summary (MCS) and Physical Component Summary (PCS).

RESULTS

Significant differences for all spine pathologies and specific PROs were found with one-way ANOVA (p < 0.0001). The time to plateaued recovery after surgery for lumbar disc herniation (661 patients), lumbar stenosis (913 patients), and lumbar spondylolisthesis (563 patients) followed the same course for the following PRO measures: VAS for back and leg pain, 3 months; DS, 12 months; PCS, 12 months; and MCS, 3 months. Beyond these time points, no further significant improvements in PROs were seen. Patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis who had undergone fusion surgery plateaued at 12 months on the DS and PCS, compared to 3 months in those who had not undergone fusion.

CONCLUSIONS

Specific health dimensions follow distinctly different recovery plateaus, indicating that a 2-year postoperative follow-up is not required for all PROs to accurately assess the treatment effect of lumbar spinal surgery. Ultimately, the clinical research question should dictate the follow-up time and the outcome measure utilized; however, there is now evidence to guide the specific duration of follow-up for pain, physical function, and mental quality of life dimensions.

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Michael P. Kelly, Lukas P. Zebala, Han Jo Kim, Daniel M. Sciubba, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Shay Bess, Eric Klineberg, Gregory Mundis Jr., Douglas Burton, Robert Hart, Alex Soroceanu, Frank Schwab, Virginie Lafage and International Spine Study Group

OBJECT

The goal of this study was to examine the effectiveness of preoperative autologous blood donation (PABD) in adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery.

METHODS

Patients undergoing single-stay ASD reconstructions were identified in a multicenter database. Patients were divided into groups according to PABD (either PABD or NoPABD). Propensity weighting was used to create matched cohorts of PABD and NoPABD patients. Allogeneic (ALLO) exposure, autologous (AUTO) wastage (unused AUTO), and complication rates were compared between groups.

RESULTS

Four hundred twenty-eight patients were identified as meeting eligibility criteria. Sixty patients were treated with PABD, of whom 50 were matched to 50 patients who were not treated with PABD (NoPABD). Nearly one-third of patients in the PABD group (18/60, 30%) did not receive any autologous transfusion and donated blood was wasted. In 6 of these cases (6/60, 10%), patients received ALLO blood transfusions without AUTO. In 9 cases (9/60, 15%), patients received ALLO and AUTO blood transfusions. Overall rates of transfusion of any type were similar between groups (PABD 70% [42/60], NoPABD 75% [275/368], p = 0.438). Major and minor in-hospital complications were similar between groups (Major PABD 10% [6/60], NoPABD 12% [43/368], p = 0.537; Minor PABD 30% [18/60], NoPABD 24% [87/368], p = 0.499). When controlling for potential confounders, PABD patients were more likely to receive some transfusion (OR 15.1, 95% CI 2.1-106.7). No relationship between PABD and ALLO blood exposure was observed, however, refuting the concept that PABD is protective against ALLO blood exposure. In the matched cohorts, PABD patients were more likely to sustain a major perioperative cardiac complication (PABD 8/50 [16%], NoPABD 1/50 [2%], p = 0.046). No differences in rates of infection or wound-healing complications were observed between cohorts.

CONCLUSIONS

Preoperative autologous blood donation was associated with a higher probability of perioperative transfusions of any type in patients with ASD. No protective effect of PABD against ALLO blood exposure was observed, and no risk of perioperative infectious complications was observed in patients exposed to ALLO blood only. The benefit of PABD in patients with ASD remains undefined.

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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.