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Jeffrey L. Gum, Steven D. Glassman, and Leah Y. Carreon

Object

Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) measures have become the mainstay for outcome appraisal in spine surgery. Clinically meaningful interpretation of HRQOL improvement has centered on the minimum clinically important difference (MCID). The purpose of this study was to calculate clinically important deterioration (CIDET) thresholds and determine a CIDET value for each HRQOL measure for patients undergoing lumbar fusion.

Methods

Seven hundred twenty-two patients (248 males, 127 smokers, mean age 60.8 years) were identified with complete preoperative and 1-year postoperative HRQOLs including the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), and numeric rating scales (0–10) for back and leg pain following primary, instrumented, posterior lumbar fusion. Anchor-based and distribution-based methods were used to calculate CIDET for each HRQOL. Anchor-based methods included change score, change difference, and receiver operating characteristic curve analysis. The Health Transition Item, an independent item of the SF-36, was used as the external anchor. Patients who responded “somewhat worse” and “much worse” were combined and compared with patients responding “about the same.” Distribution-based methods were minimum detectable change and effect size.

Results

Diagnoses included spondylolisthesis (n = 332), scoliosis (n = 54), instability (n = 37), disc pathology (n = 146), and stenosis (n = 153). There was a statistically significant change (p < 0.0001) for each HRQOL measure from preoperatively to 1-year postoperatively. Only 107 patients (15%) reported being “somewhat worse” (n = 81) or “much worse” (n = 26). Calculation methods yielded a range of CIDET values for ODI (0.17–9.06), SF-36 physical component summary (−0.32 to 4.43), back pain (0.02–1.50), and leg pain (0.02–1.50).

Conclusions

A threshold for clinical deterioration was difficult to identify. This may be due to the small number of patients reporting being worse after surgery and the variability across methods to determine CIDET thresholds. Overall, it appears that patients may interpret the absence of change as deterioration.

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Charles H. Crawford III, Steven D. Glassman, Jeffrey L. Gum, and Leah Y. Carreon

Advancements in the understanding of adult spinal deformity have led to a greater awareness of the role of the pelvis in maintaining sagittal balance and alignment. Pelvic incidence has emerged as a key radiographic measure and should closely match lumbar lordosis. As proper measurement of the pelvic incidence requires accurate identification of the S-1 endplate, lumbosacral transitional anatomy may lead to errors. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate how lumbosacral transitional anatomy may lead to errors in the measurement of pelvic parameters. The current case highlights one of the potential complications that can be avoided with awareness.

The authors report the case of a 61-year-old man who had undergone prior lumbar surgeries and then presented with symptomatic lumbar stenosis and sagittal malalignment. Radiographs showed a lumbarized S-1. Prior numbering of the segments in previous surgical and radiology reports led to a pelvic incidence calculation of 61°. Corrected numbering of the segments using the lumbarized S-1 endplate led to a pelvic incidence calculation of 48°. Without recognition of the lumbosacral anatomy, overcorrection of the lumbar lordosis might have led to negative sagittal balance and the propensity to develop proximal junction failure. This case illustrates that improper identification of lumbosacral transitional anatomy may lead to errors that could affect clinical outcome. Awareness of this potential error may help improve patient outcomes.

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Marcel R. Wiley, Leah Y. Carreon, Mladen Djurasovic, Steven D. Glassman, Yehia H. Khalil, Michelle Kannapel, and Jeffrey L. Gum

OBJECTIVE

In the future, payers may not cover unplanned 90-day emergency room (ER) visits or readmissions after elective lumbar spine surgery. Prior studies using large administrative databases lack granularity and/or use a proxy for actual cost. The purpose of this study was to identify risk factors and subsequent costs associated with 90-day ER visits and readmissions after elective lumbar spine surgery.

METHODS

A prospective, multisurgeon, single-center electronic medical record was queried for elective lumbar spine fusion surgeries from 2013 to 2017. Predictive models were created for 90-day ER visits and readmissions.

RESULTS

Of 5444 patients, 729 (13%) returned to the ER, most often for pain (n = 213, 29%). Predictors of an ER visit were prior ER visit (OR 2.5), underserved zip code (OR 1.4), and number of chronic medical conditions (OR 1.4). In total, 421 (8%) patients were readmitted, most frequently for wound infection (n = 123, 2%), exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (n = 24, 0.4%), and sepsis (n = 23, 0.4%). Predictors for readmission were prior ER visit (OR 1.96), multiple chronic conditions (OR 1.69), obesity (nonobese, OR 0.49), race (African American, OR 1.43), admission status (ER admission, OR 2.29), and elevated hemoglobin A1c (OR 1.80). The mean direct hospital cost for an ER visit was $1971, with 75% of visits costing less than $1890, and the average readmission cost was $7347, with 75% of readmissions costing less than $8820. Over the 5-year study period, the cost to the institution for 90-day return ER visits was $5.1 million.

CONCLUSIONS

Risk factors for 90-day ER visit and readmission after elective lumbar spine surgery include medical comorbidities and socioeconomic factors. Proper patient counseling, appropriate postoperative pain management, and optimization of modifiable risk factors prior to surgery are areas to focus future efforts to lower 90-day ER visits and readmissions and reduce healthcare costs.

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Mladen Djurasovic, Steven Glassman, Jeffrey L. Gum, Charles H. Crawford III, R. Kirk Owens II, and Leah Y. Carreon

OBJECTIVE

Lumbar fusion can lead to significant improvements in patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in patients with degenerative conditions. It is unknown whether the presence of hip or knee arthritis confounds the responses of patients to low-back–specific PROs. This study examined PROs with lumbar fusion in patients with concomitant lower-extremity arthritis. The purpose of the current study was to examine whether patients with significant lower-extremity arthritis who undergo lumbar fusion achieve similar improvements in low-back–specific PROs compared to patients without lower-extremity arthritis.

METHODS

Patients were identified from a prospectively enrolled multicenter registry of patients undergoing lumbar fusion surgery for degenerative conditions. Two hundred thirty patients identified with lumbar fusion and who also had concomitant lower-extremity arthritis were propensity matched to 233 patients who did not have lower-extremity arthritis based on age, BMI, sex, smoking status, American Society of Anesthesiologists grade, number of levels fused, and surgical approach. One-year improvement in PROs, numeric rating scales (0–10) for back and leg pain, and the Oswestry Disability Index and EuroQol-5D scores were compared for patients with and without lower-extremity arthritis.

RESULTS

Baseline demographics and preoperative outcome measures did not differ between the two propensity-matched groups with 110 cases each. Patients with concomitant lower-extremity arthritis achieved similar improvement in health-related quality-of-life measures to patients without lower-extremity arthritis, with no significant differences between the groups (p > 0.10).

CONCLUSIONS

The presence of lower-extremity arthritis does not adversely affect the results of lumbar fusion in properly selected patients. Patients with lower-extremity arthritis who undergo lumbar fusion can achieve meaningful improvement in PROs similar to patients without arthritis.

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Mikhail Lew P. Ver, Jeffrey L. Gum, Charles H. Crawford III, Mladen Djurasovic, R. Kirk Owens II, Morgan Brown, Portia Steele, and Leah Y. Carreon

OBJECTIVE

Posterior fixation with interbody cage placement can be accomplished via numerous techniques. In an attempt to expedite recovery by limiting muscle dissection, midline lumbar interbody fusion (MIDLIF) has been described. More recently, the authors have developed a robot-assisted MIDLIF (RA-MIDLIF) technique. The purpose of this study was to compare the index episode-of-care (iEOC) parameters between patients undergoing traditional open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (tTLIF), MIDLIF, and RA-MIDLIF.

METHODS

A retrospective review of a prospective, multisurgeon surgical database was performed. Consecutive patients undergoing 1- or 2-level tTLIF, MIDLIF, or RA-MIDLIF for degenerative lumbar conditions were identified. Patients in each cohort were propensity matched based on age, sex, smoking status, BMI, diagnosis, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) class, and number of levels fused. Index EOC parameters such as length of stay (LOS), estimated blood loss (EBL), operating room (OR) time, and actual, direct hospital costs for the index surgical visit were analyzed.

RESULTS

Of 281 and 249 patients undergoing tTLIF and MIDLIF, respectively, 52 cases in each cohort were successfully propensity matched to the authors’ first 55 RA-MIDLIF cases. Consistent with propensity matching, there was no significant difference in age, sex, BMI, diagnosis, ASA class, or levels fused. Spondylolisthesis was the most common indication for surgery in all cohorts. The mean total iEOC was similar across all cohorts. Patients undergoing RA-MIDLIF had a shorter average LOS (1.53 days) than those undergoing either MIDLIF (2.71 days) or tTLIF (3.58 days). Both MIDLIF and RA-MIDLIF were associated with lower EBL and less OR time compared with tTLIF.

CONCLUSIONS

Despite concerns for additional cost and time while introducing navigation or robotic technology, a propensity-matched comparison of the authors’ first 52 RA-MIDLIF surgeries with tTLIF and MIDLIF showed promising results for reducing OR time, EBL, and LOS without increasing cost.

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Mladen Djurasovic, Jeffrey L. Gum, Charles H. Crawford III, Kirk Owens II, Morgan Brown, Portia Steele, Steven D. Glassman, and Leah Y. Carreon

OBJECTIVE

The midline transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (MIDLIF) using cortical screw fixation is a novel, minimally invasive procedure that may offer enhanced recovery over traditional open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF). Little information is available regarding the comparative cost-effectiveness of the MIDLIF over conventional TLIF. The purpose of this study was to compare cost-effectiveness of minimally invasive MIDLIF with open TLIF.

METHODS

From a prospective, multisurgeon, surgical database, a consecutive series of patients undergoing 1- or 2-level MIDLIF for degenerative lumbar conditions was identified and propensity matched to patients undergoing TLIF based on age, sex, smoking status, BMI, diagnosis, American Society of Anesthesiologists Physical Status Classification System (ASA) class, and levels fused. Direct costs at 1 year were collected, including costs associated with the index surgical visit as well as costs associated with readmission. Improvement in health-related quality of life was measured using EQ-5D and SF-6D.

RESULTS

Of 214 and 181 patients undergoing MIDLIF and TLIF, respectively, 33 cases in each cohort were successfully propensity matched. Consistent with propensity matching, there was no difference in age, sex, BMI, diagnosis, ASA class, smoking status, or levels fused. Spondylolisthesis was the most common indication for surgery in both cohorts. Variable direct costs at 1 year were $2493 lower in the MIDLIF group than in the open TLIF group (mean $15,867 vs $17,612, p = 0.073). There was no difference in implant (p = 0.193) or biologics (p = 0.145) cost, but blood utilization (p = 0.015), operating room supplies (p < 0.001), hospital room and board (p < 0.001), pharmacy (p = 0.010), laboratory (p = 0.004), and physical therapy (p = 0.009) costs were all significantly lower in the MIDLIF group. Additionally, the mean length of stay was decreased for MIDLIF as well (3.21 vs 4.02 days, p = 0.05). The EQ-5D gain at 1 year was 0.156 for MIDLIF and 0.141 for open TLIF (p = 0.821). The SF-6D gain at 1 year was 0.071 for MIDLIF and 0.057 for open TLIF (p = 0.551).

CONCLUSIONS

Compared with patients undergoing traditional open TLIF, those undergoing MIDLIF have similar 1-year gains in health-related quality of life, with total direct costs that are $2493 lower. Although the findings were not statistically significant, minimally invasive MIDLIF showed improved cost-effectiveness at 1 year compared with open TLIF.

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Yoji Ogura, Jeffrey L. Gum, Portia Steele, Charles H. Crawford III, Mladen Djurasovic, R. Kirk Owens II, Joseph L. Laratta, Morgan Brown, Christy Daniels, John R. Dimar II, Steven D. Glassman, and Leah Y. Carreon

OBJECTIVE

Unexpected nonhome discharge causes additional costs in the current reimbursement models, especially to the payor. Nonhome discharge is also related to longer length of hospital stay and therefore higher healthcare costs to society. With increasing demand for spine surgery, it is important to minimize costs by streamlining discharges and reducing length of hospital stay. Identifying factors associated with nonhome discharge can be useful for early intervention for discharge planning. The authors aimed to identify the drivers of nonhome discharge in patients undergoing 1- or 2-level instrumented lumbar fusion.

METHODS

The electronic medical records from a single-center hospital administrative database were analyzed for consecutive patients who underwent 1- to 2-level instrumented lumbar fusion for degenerative lumbar conditions during the period from 2016 to 2018. Discharge disposition was determined as home or nonhome. A logistic regression analysis was used to determine associations between nonhome discharge and age, sex, body mass index (BMI), race, American Society of Anesthesiologists grade, smoking status, marital status, insurance type, residence in an underserved zip code, and operative factors.

RESULTS

A total of 1502 patients were included. The majority (81%) were discharged home. Factors associated with a nonhome discharge were older age, higher BMI, living in an underserved zip code, not being married, being on government insurance, and having more levels fused. Patients discharged to a nonhome facility had longer lengths of hospital stay (5.6 vs 3.0 days, p < 0.001) and significantly increased hospital costs ($21,204 vs $17,518, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Increased age, greater BMI, residence in an underserved zip code, not being married, and government insurance are drivers for discharge to a nonhome facility after a 1- to 2-level instrumented lumbar fusion. Early identification and intervention for these patients, even before admission, may decrease the length of hospital stay and medical costs.

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Yoji Ogura, Jeffrey L. Gum, Portia Steele, Charles H. Crawford III, Mladen Djurasovic, R. Kirk Owens II, Joseph L. Laratta, Morgan Brown, Christy Daniels, John R. Dimar II, Steven D. Glassman, and Leah Y. Carreon

OBJECTIVE

Unexpected nonhome discharge causes additional costs in the current reimbursement models, especially to the payor. Nonhome discharge is also related to longer length of hospital stay and therefore higher healthcare costs to society. With increasing demand for spine surgery, it is important to minimize costs by streamlining discharges and reducing length of hospital stay. Identifying factors associated with nonhome discharge can be useful for early intervention for discharge planning. The authors aimed to identify the drivers of nonhome discharge in patients undergoing 1- or 2-level instrumented lumbar fusion.

METHODS

The electronic medical records from a single-center hospital administrative database were analyzed for consecutive patients who underwent 1- to 2-level instrumented lumbar fusion for degenerative lumbar conditions during the period from 2016 to 2018. Discharge disposition was determined as home or nonhome. A logistic regression analysis was used to determine associations between nonhome discharge and age, sex, body mass index (BMI), race, American Society of Anesthesiologists grade, smoking status, marital status, insurance type, residence in an underserved zip code, and operative factors.

RESULTS

A total of 1502 patients were included. The majority (81%) were discharged home. Factors associated with a nonhome discharge were older age, higher BMI, living in an underserved zip code, not being married, being on government insurance, and having more levels fused. Patients discharged to a nonhome facility had longer lengths of hospital stay (5.6 vs 3.0 days, p < 0.001) and significantly increased hospital costs ($21,204 vs $17,518, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Increased age, greater BMI, residence in an underserved zip code, not being married, and government insurance are drivers for discharge to a nonhome facility after a 1- to 2-level instrumented lumbar fusion. Early identification and intervention for these patients, even before admission, may decrease the length of hospital stay and medical costs.

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Joshua Bakhsheshian, Justin K. Scheer, Jeffrey L. Gum, Richard Hostin, Virginie Lafage, Shay Bess, Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Douglas C. Burton, Malla Kate Keefe, Robert A. Hart, Gregory M. Mundis Jr., Christopher I. Shaffrey, Frank Schwab, Justin S. Smith, Christopher P. Ames, and The International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Mental disease burden can have a significant impact on levels of disability and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) measures. Therefore, the authors investigated the significance of mental health status in adults with spinal deformity and poor physical function.

METHODS

A retrospective analysis of a prospective multicenter database of 365 adult spinal deformity (ASD) patients who had undergone surgical treatment was performed. Health-related QOL variables were examined preoperatively and at the 2-year postoperative follow-up. Patients were grouped by their 36-Item Short Form Health Survey mental component summary (MCS) and physical component summary (PCS) scores. Both groups had PCS scores ≤ 25th percentile for matched norms; however, the low mental health (LMH) group consisted of patients with an MCS score ≤ 25th percentile, and the high mental health (HMH) group included patients with an MCS score ≥ 75th percentile.

RESULTS

Of the 264 patients (72.3%) with a 2-year follow-up, 104 (28.5%) met the inclusion criteria for LMH and 40 patients (11.0%) met those for HMH. The LMH group had a significantly higher overall rate of comorbidities, specifically leg weakness, depression, hypertension, and self-reported neurological and psychiatric disease processes, and were more likely to be unemployed as compared with the HMH group (p < 0.05 for all). The 2 groups had similar 2-year postoperative improvements in HRQOL (p > 0.05) except for the greater improvements in the MCS and the Scoliosis Research Society-22r questionnaire (SRS-22r) mental domain (p < 0.05) in the LMH group and greater improvements in PCS and SRS-22r satisfaction and back pain domains (p < 0.05) in the HMH group. The LMH group had a higher rate of reaching a minimal clinically important difference (MCID) on the SRS-22r mental domain (p < 0.01), and the HMH group had a higher rate of reaching an MCID on the PCS and SRS-22r activity domain (p < 0.05). On multivariable logistic regression, having LMH was a significant independent predictor of failure to reach an MCID on the PCS (p < 0.05). At the 2-year postoperative follow-up, 14 LMH patients (15.1%) were categorized as HMH. Two LMH patients (2.2%), and 3 HMH patients (7.7%) transitioned to a PCS score ≥ 75th percentile for age- and sex-matched US norms (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS

While patients with poor mental and physical health, according to their MCS and PCS scores, have higher medical comorbidity and unemployment rates, they still demonstrate significant improvements in HRQOL measurements postoperatively. Both LMH and HMH patient groups demonstrated similar improvements in most HRQOL domains, except that the LMH patients had difficulties in obtaining improvements in the PCS domain.

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Taemin Oh, Justin K. Scheer, Justin S. Smith, Richard Hostin, Chessie Robinson, Jeffrey L. Gum, Frank Schwab, Robert A. Hart, Virginie Lafage, Douglas C. Burton, Shay Bess, Themistocles Protopsaltis, Eric O. Klineberg, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Christopher P. Ames, and the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Patients with adult spinal deformity (ASD) experience significant quality of life improvements after surgery. Treatment, however, is expensive and complication rates are high. Predictive analytics has the potential to use many variables to make accurate predictions in large data sets. A validated minimum clinically important difference (MCID) model has the potential to assist in patient selection, thereby improving outcomes and, potentially, cost-effectiveness.

METHODS

The present study was a retrospective analysis of a multiinstitutional database of patients with ASD. Inclusion criteria were as follows: age ≥ 18 years, radiographic evidence of ASD, 2-year follow-up, and preoperative Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) > 15. Forty-six variables were used for model training: demographic data, radiographic parameters, surgical variables, and results on the health-related quality of life questionnaire. Patients were grouped as reaching a 2-year ODI MCID (+MCID) or not (−MCID). An ensemble of 5 different bootstrapped decision trees was constructed using the C5.0 algorithm. Internal validation was performed via 70:30 data split for training/testing. Model accuracy and area under the curve (AUC) were calculated. The mean quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and QALYs gained at 2 years were calculated and discounted at 3.5% per year. The QALYs were compared between patients in the +MCID and –MCID groups.

RESULTS

A total of 234 patients met inclusion criteria (+MCID 129, −MCID 105). Sixty-nine patients (29.5%) were included for model testing. Predicted versus actual results were 50 versus 40 for +MCID and 19 versus 29 for −MCID (i.e., 10 patients were misclassified). Model accuracy was 85.5%, with 0.96 AUC. Predicted results showed that patients in the +MCID group had significantly greater 2-year mean QALYs (p = 0.0057) and QALYs gained (p = 0.0002).

CONCLUSIONS

A successful model with 85.5% accuracy and 0.96 AUC was constructed to predict which patients would reach ODI MCID. The patients in the +MCID group had significantly higher mean 2-year QALYs and QALYs gained. This study provides proof of concept for using predictive modeling techniques to optimize patient selection in complex spine surgery.