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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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Sean M. Jones-Quaidoo, Mladen Djurasovic, R. Kirk Owens II, and Leah Y. Carreon

Object

Recent studies have reported the incidence of superior facet joint violation using percutaneous techniques. These techniques have not been compared with the open midline approach. An increased incidence of superior facet violation may lead to adjacent-segment disease. In this paper, the authors' goal is to compare the rate of superior facet violation with the use of percutaneously placed pedicle screws versus midline approach open placement.

Methods

Patients who underwent a single-level fusion using a percutaneous approach from L-1 to S-1 who had undergone CT scanning within 1 year after surgery were identified. A cohort who underwent open fusion matched by level of surgery was identified. All CT scans were reviewed by 3 fellowship-trained spine surgeons to determine the degree of facet violation. The final categorization for each screw was based on the most frequent reading among the 6 evaluations. The Fisher test was used to determine the association of facet violation with approach.

Results

There were 66 patients in each group. Patients in the Percutaneous group were younger (mean 42.5 years) than those in the Open group (mean 57.8 years, p = 0.000). There was no statistically significant difference in sex distribution, surgical levels fused, or time between surgery and CT scan between the groups. Thirty-six (13.6%) of 264 screws in the percutaneous and 16 (6%) of 263 screws in the Open group were in the facet joint (p = 0.005). Of these, 17 (12%) of the 132 proximal screws in the percutaneous and 7 (5%) of the 131 proximal screws in the Open group were in the facet joint (p = 0.052).

Conclusions

The use of a percutaneous method to insert pedicle screws results in a statistically significantly higher incidence of facet joint violation, even if only proximal screws are considered. Further studies are needed to determine if this leads to a higher incidence of symptomatic adjacent-level disease.

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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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Leah Y. Carreon, Kelly R. Bratcher, Chelsea E. Canan, Lauren O. Burke, Mladen Djurasovic, and Steven D. Glassman

Object

Previous studies have reported on the minimum clinically important difference (MCID), a threshold of improvement that is clinically relevant for lumbar degenerative disorders. Recent studies have shown that pre- and postoperative health-related quality of life (HRQOL) measures vary among patients with different diagnostic etiologies. There is also concern that a patient's previous care experience may affect his or her perception of clinical improvement. This study determined if MCID values for the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36), and back and leg pain are different between patients undergoing primary or revision lumbar fusion.

Methods

Prospectively collected preoperative and 1-year postoperative patient-reported HRQOLs, including the ODI, SF-36 physical component summary (PCS), and numeric rating scales (0–10) for back and leg pain, in patients undergoing lumbar spine fusion were analyzed. Patients were grouped into either the primary surgery or revision group. As the most widely accepted MCID values were calculated from the minimum detectable change, this method was used to determine the MCID.

Results

A total of 722 patients underwent primary procedures and 333 patients underwent revisions. There was no statistically significant difference in demographics between the groups. Each group had a statistically significant improvement at 1 year postoperatively compared with baseline. The minimum detectable change–derived MCID values for the primary group were 1.16 for back pain, 1.36 for leg pain, 12.40 for ODI, and 5.21 for SF-36 PCS. The MCID values for the revision group were 1.21 for back pain, 1.28 for leg pain, 11.79 for ODI, and 4.90 for SF-36 PCS. These values are very similar to those previously reported in the literature.

Conclusions

The MCID values were similar for the revision and primary lumbar fusion groups, even when subgroup analysis was done for different diagnostic etiologies, simplifying interpretation of clinical improvement. The results of this study further validate the use of patient-reported HRQOLs to measure clinical effectiveness, as a patient's previous experience with care does not seem to substantially alter an individual's perception of clinical improvement.

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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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Mladen Djurasovic, Steven D. Glassman, John R. Dimar II, Charles H. Crawford III, Kelly R. Bratcher, and Leah Y. Carreon

Object

Clinical studies use both disease-specific and generic health outcomes measures. Disease-specific measures focus on health domains most relevant to the clinical population, while generic measures assess overall health-related quality of life. There is little information about which domains of the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) are most important in determining improvement in overall health-related quality of life, as measured by the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), after lumbar spinal fusion. The objective of the study is to determine which clinical elements assessed by the ODI most influence improvement of overall health-related quality of life.

Methods

A single tertiary spine center database was used to identify patients undergoing lumbar fusion for standard degenerative indications. Patients with complete preoperative and 2-year outcomes measures were included. Pearson correlation was used to assess the relationship between improvement in each item of the ODI with improvement in the SF-36 physical component summary (PCS) score, as well as achievement of the SF-36 PCS minimum clinically important difference (MCID). Multivariate regression modeling was used to examine which items of the ODI best predicted achievement for the SF-36 PCS MCID. The effect size and standardized response mean were calculated for each of the items of the ODI.

Results

A total of 1104 patients met inclusion criteria (674 female and 430 male patients). The mean age at surgery was 57 years. All items of the ODI showed significant correlations with the change in SF-36 PCS score and achievement of MCID for the SF-36 PCS, but only pain intensity, walking, and social life had r values > 0.4 reflecting moderate correlation. These 3 variables were also the dimensions that were independent predictors of the SF-36 PCS, and they were the only dimensions that had effect sizes and standardized response means that were moderate to large.

Conclusions

Of the health dimensions measured by the ODI, pain intensity, walking, and social life best predicted improvement in overall health-related quality of life, as measured using the SF-36 PCS.

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Mladen Djurasovic, Katlyn E. McGraw, Kelly Bratcher, Charles H. Crawford III, John R. Dimar II, Rolando M. Puno, Steven D. Glassman, R. Kirk Owens II, and Leah Y. Carreon

OBJECTIVE

The goal of this study was to determine efficacy and cost-effectiveness of Cell Saver in 2- and 3-level lumbar decompression and fusion.

METHODS

Patients seen at a tertiary care spine center who were undergoing a posterior 2- or 3-level lumbar decompression and fusion were randomized to have Cell Saver used during their surgery (CS group, n = 48) or not used (No Cell Saver [NCS] group, n = 47). Data regarding preoperative and postoperative hemoglobin and hematocrit, estimated blood loss, volume of Cell Saver blood reinfused, number of units and volume of allogeneic blood transfused intraoperatively and postoperatively, complications, and costs were collected. Costs associated with Cell Saver use were calculated based on units of allogeneic blood transfusions averted.

RESULTS

Demographics and surgical parameters were similar in both groups. The mean estimated blood loss was similar in both groups: 612 ml in the CS group and 742 ml in the NCS group. There were 53 U of allogeneic blood transfused in 29 patients in the NCS group at a total blood product cost of $67,688; and 38 U of allogeneic blood transfused in 16 patients in the CS group at a total blood cost of $113,162, resulting in a cost of $3031 per allogeneic blood transfusion averted using Cell Saver.

CONCLUSIONS

Cell Saver use produced lower rates of allogeneic transfusion but was found to be more expensive than using only allogeneic blood for 2- and 3-level lumbar degenerative fusions. This increased cost may be reasonable to patients who perceive that the risks associated with allogeneic transfusions are unacceptable.

CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE Type of question: therapeutic; study design: randomized controlled trial; evidence: class III.

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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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Leah Y. Carreon, Mladen Djurasovic, John R. Dimar II, R. Kirk Owens II, Charles H. Crawford III, Rolando M. Puno, Kelly R. Bratcher, Katlyn E. McGraw, and Steven D. Glassman

OBJECTIVE

Studies have shown that anxious or depressed patients may have poorer outcomes after lumbar fusion. These conclusions were drawn from questionnaires specifically designed to measure anxiety and depression. The objective of this study is to determine if responses to the EQ-5D anxiety/depression domain or the items used to calculate the 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36) Mental Component Summary (MCS) can predict outcomes after lumbar fusion surgery.

METHODS

Patients enrolled in the National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database from a single center with 1-year follow-up were identified. The outcomes collected include the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), EQ-5D, SF-36, and the back- and leg-pain numeric rating scales (range 0–10). Linear regression modeling was performed to predict the 1-year ODI scores using the EQ-5D anxiety/depression domain and the 14 items used to calculate SF-36 MCS.

RESULTS

Complete data were available for 312 (88%) of 353 eligible patients. The mean patient age was 58.5 years, 175 (56%) patients were women, and 52 patients were smokers. After controlling for other factors, the item in the SF-36 that asks “Have you felt downhearted and depressed?” is the strongest predictor of the 1-year ODI score (r2 = 0.191; p = 0.000) and 1-year EQ-5D score (r2 = 0.205; p = 0.000). Neither the EQ-5D anxiety/depression domain nor the diagnoses of anxiety or depression were predictors of 1-year outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS

Patient responses to SF-36 item “Have you felt downhearted and depressed?” account for 20% of the variability of the 1-year ODI and EQ-5D scores and can be used by clinicians to screen for anxiety or depression in patients prior to lumbar fusion surgery. Clinicians may offer psychological support to these patients preoperatively in order to improve treatment outcomes.