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Scott L. Parker, Anthony L. Asher, Saniya S. Godil, Clinton J. Devin and Matthew J. McGirt


The health care landscape is rapidly shifting to incentivize quality of care rather than quantity of care. Quality and outcomes registry platforms lie at the center of all emerging evidence-driven reform models and will be used to inform decision makers in health care delivery. Obtaining real-world registry outcomes data from patients 12 months after spine surgery remains a challenge. The authors set out to determine whether 3-month patient-reported outcomes accurately predict 12-month outcomes and, hence, whether 3-month measurement systems suffice to identify effective versus noneffective spine care.


All patients undergoing lumbar spine surgery for degenerative disease at a single medical institution over a 2-year period were enrolled in a prospective longitudinal registry. Patient-reported outcome instruments (numeric rating scale [NRS], Oswestry Disability Index [ODI], 12-Item Short Form Health Survey [SF-12], EQ-5D, and the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale) were recorded prospectively at baseline and at 3 months and 12 months after surgery. Linear regression was performed to determine the independent association of 3- and 12-month outcome. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was performed to determine whether improvement in general health state (EQ-5D) and disability (ODI) at 3 months accurately predicted improvement and achievement of minimum clinical important difference (MCID) at 12 months.


A total of 593 patients undergoing elective lumbar surgery were included in the study. There was a significant correlation between 3-month and 12-month EQ-5D (r = 0.71; p < 0.0001) and ODI (r = 0.70; p < 0.0001); however, the authors observed a sizable discrepancy in achievement of a clinically significant improvement (MCID) threshold at 3 versus 12 months on an individual patient level. For postoperative disability (ODI), 11.5% of patients who achieved an MCID threshold at 3 months dropped below this threshold at 12 months; 10.5% of patients who did not meet the MCID threshold at 3 months continued to improve and ultimately surpassed the MCID threshold at 12 months. For ODI, achieving MCID at 3 months accurately predicted 12-month MCID with only 62.6% specificity and 86.8% sensitivity. For postoperative health utility (EQ-5D), 8.5% of patients lost an MCID threshold improvement from 3 months to 12 months, while 4.0% gained the MCID threshold between 3 and 12 months postoperatively. For EQ-5D (quality-adjusted life years), achieving MCID at 3 months accurately predicted 12-month MCID with only 87.7% specificity and 87.2% sensitivity.


In a prospective registry, patient-reported measures of treatment effectiveness obtained at 3 months correlated with 12-month measures overall in aggregate, but did not reliably predict 12-month outcome at the patient level. Many patients who do not benefit from surgery by 3 months do so by 12 months, and, conversely, many patients reporting meaningful improvement by 3 months report loss of benefit at 12 months. Prospective longitudinal spine outcomes registries need to span at least 12 months to identify effective versus noneffective patient care.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Saniya S. Godil, Anthony L. Asher, Scott L. Parker and Clinton J. Devin


In an era of escalating health care cost and universal pressure of improving efficiency and cost of care, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) have emerged as lower cost options for many surgical therapies. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is one of the most prevalent spine surgeries performed and is rapidly increasing with an expanding aging population. While ASCs offer cost advantages for ACDF, there is a scarcity of evidence that ASCs allow for equivalent quality and thus superior health care value. Therefore, the authors analyzed a nationwide, prospective quality improvement registry (National Surgical Quality Improvement Program [NSQIP]) to compare the quality of ACDF surgery performed in the outpatient ASC versus the inpatient hospital setting.


Patients undergoing ACDF (2005-2011) were identified from the NSQIP database based on the primary Current Procedural Terminology codes. Patients were divided into 2 cohorts (outpatient vs inpatient) based on the acute care setting documented in the NSQIP database. All 30-day surgical morbidity and mortality rates were compared between the 2 groups. Propensity score matching and multivariate logistic regression analysis were used to adjust for confounding factors and to identify the independent association of outpatient ACDF with perioperative outcomes and morbidity.


A total of 7288 ACDF cases were identified (inpatient = 6120, outpatient = 1168). Unadjusted rates of major morbidity (0.94% vs 4.5%, p < 0.001) and return to the operating room (OR) within 30 days (0.3% vs 2.0%, p < 0.001) were significantly lower in outpatient versus inpatient ACDF. After propensity matching 1442 cases (inpatient = 650, outpatient = 792) based on baseline 32 covariates, rates of major morbidity (1.4% vs 3.1%, p = 0.03), and return to the OR (0.34% vs 1.4%, p = 0.04) remained significantly lower after outpatient ACDF. Adjusted comparison using multivariate logistic regression demonstrated that ACDF performed in the outpatient setting had 58% lower odds of having a major morbidity and 80% lower odds of return to the OR within 30 days.


An analysis of a nationwide, prospective quality improvement registry representing more than 250 hospitals demonstrates that 1- to 2-level ACDF can be safely performed in the outpatient ambulatory surgery setting in patients who are appropriate candidates. In an effort to decrease cost of care, surgeons can safely consider performing ACDF in an ASC environment.

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Saniya S. Godil, Scott L. Parker, Kevin R. O'Neill, Clinton J. Devin and Matthew J. McGirt


Surgical site infection (SSI) is a morbid complication with high cost in spine surgery. In this era of health care reforms, adjuvant therapies that not only improve quality but also decrease cost are considered of highest value. The authors introduced local application of vancomycin powder into their practice of posterior spinal fusion for spine trauma and undertook this study to determine the value and cost benefit of using vancomycin powder in surgical sites to prevent postoperative infections.


A retrospective review of 110 patients with traumatic spine injuries treated with instrumented posterior spine fusions over a 2-year period at a single institution was performed. One group (control group) received standard systemic prophylaxis only, whereas another (treatment group) received 1 g of locally applied vancomycin powder (spread over the surgical wound) in addition to systemic prophylaxis. Data were collected on patient demographic characteristics, clinical variables, surgical variables, and 90-day morbidity. Incidence of infection was the primary outcome evaluated, and billing records were reviewed to determine total infection-related medical cost (cost of reoperation/wound debridement, medications, and diagnostic tests). The payer's cost was estimated to be 70% of the total billing cost.


A total of 110 patients were included in the study. The control (n = 54) and treatment groups (n = 56) were similar at baseline. Use of vancomycin powder led to significant reduction in infection rate (13% infection rate in the control group vs 0% in the treatment group, p = 0.02). There were no adverse effects noted from the use of vancomycin powder. The total mean cost of treating postoperative infection per patient was $33,705. Use of vancomycin powder led to a cost savings of $438,165 per 100 posterior spinal fusions performed for traumatic injuries.


The use of adjuvant vancomycin powder was associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of postoperative infection as well as infection-related medical cost. These findings suggest that use of adjuvant vancomycin powder in high-risk patients undergoing spinal fusion is a cost-saving option for preventing postoperative infections, as it can lead to cost-savings of $438,165 per 100 spinal fusions performed.