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Jeffrey M. Breton, Calvin G. Ludwig, Michael J. Yang, T. Jayde Nail, Ron I. Riesenburger, Penny Liu, and James T Kryzanski


Spinal anesthesia (SA) is an alternative to general anesthesia (GA) for lumbar spine surgery, including complex instrumented fusion, although there are relatively few outcome data available. The authors discuss their experience using SA in a modern complex lumbar spine surgery practice to describe its utility and implementation.


Data from patients receiving SA for lumbar spine surgery by one surgeon from March 2017 to December 2020 were collected via a retrospective chart review. Cases were divided into nonfusion and fusion procedure categories and analyzed for demographics and baseline medical status; pre-, intra-, and postoperative events; hospital course, including Acute Pain Service (APS) consults; and follow-up visit outcome data.


A total of 345 consecutive lumbar spine procedures were found, with 343 records complete for analysis, including 181 fusion and 162 nonfusion procedures and spinal levels from T11 through S1. The fusion group was significantly older (mean age 65.9 ± 12.4 vs 59.5 ± 15.4 years, p < 0.001) and had a significantly higher proportion of patients with American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Physical Status Classification class III (p = 0.009) than the nonfusion group. There were no intraoperative conversions to GA, with infrequent need for a second dose of SA preoperatively (2.9%, 10/343) and rare preoperative conversion to GA (0.6%, 2/343) across fusion and nonfusion groups. Rates of complications during hospitalization were comparable to those seen in the literature. The APS was consulted for 2.9% (10/343) of procedures. An algorithm for the integration of SA into a lumbar spine surgery practice, from surgical and anesthetic perspectives, is also offered.


SA is a viable, safe, and effective option for lumbar spine surgery across a wide range of age and health statuses, particularly in older patients and those who want to avoid GA. The authors’ protocol, based in part on the largest set of data currently available describing complex instrumented fusion surgeries of the lumbar spine completed under SA, presents guidance and best practices to integrate SA into contemporary lumbar spine practices.