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Rowan Schouten, Peter Lewkonia, Vanessa K. Noonan, Marcel F. Dvorak, and Charles G. Fisher


The aim of this study was to define the expected functional and health-related quality of life outcomes following common thoracolumbar injuries on the basis of consensus expert opinion and the best available literature. Patient expectations are primarily determined by the information provided by health care professionals, and these expectations have been shown to influence outcome in various medical and surgical conditions. This paper presents Part 2 of a multiphase study designed to investigate the impact of patient expectations on outcomes following spinal injury. Part 1 demonstrated substantial variability in the information surgeons are communicating to patients. Defining the expected outcomes following thoracolumbar injury would allow further analysis of this relationship and enable surgeons to more accurately and consistently inform patients.


Expert opinion was assembled by distributing questionnaires comprising 4 cases representative of common thoracolumbar injuries to members of the Spine Trauma Study Group (STSG). The 4 cases included a thoracolumbar junction burst fracture treated nonoperatively or with posterior transpedicular instrumentation, a low lumbar (L-4) burst fracture treated nonoperatively, and a thoracolumbar junction flexion-distraction injury managed with posterior fusion. For each case, 5 questions about expected outcomes were posed. The questions related to the proportion of patients who are pain free, the proportion who have regained full range of motion, and the patients' recreational activity restrictions and personal care and social life limitations, all at 1 year following injury, as well as the timing of return to work and length of hospital stay. Responses were analyzed and combined with the results of a systematic literature review on the same injuries to define the expected outcomes.


The literature review identified 38 appropriate studies that met the preset inclusion criteria. Published data were available for all injuries, but not all outcomes were available for each type of injury. The survey was completed by 31 (57%) of 53 surgeons representing 24 trauma centers across North America (15), Europe (5), India (1), Mexico (1), Japan (1) and Israel (1). Consensus expert opinion supplemented the available literature and was used exclusively when published data were lacking.

For example, 1 year following cast or brace treatment of a thoracolumbar burst fracture, the expected outcomes include a 40% chance of being pain free, a 70% chance of regaining pre-injury range of motion, and an expected ability to participate in high-impact exercise and contact sport with no or minimal limitation. Consensus expert opinion predicts reemployment within 4–6 months. The length of inpatient stay averages 4–5 days.


This synthesis of the best available literature and consensus opinion of surgeons with extensive clinical experience in spine trauma reflects the optimal methodology for determining functional prognosis after thoracolumbar trauma. By providing consistent, accurate information surgeons will help patients develop realistic expectations and potentially optimize outcomes.

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Development and validation of a clinical prediction score for poor postoperative pain control following elective spine surgery

Presented at the 2020 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Michael M. H. Yang, Jay Riva-Cambrin, Jonathan Cunningham, Nathalie Jetté, Tolulope T. Sajobi, Alex Soroceanu, Peter Lewkonia, W. Bradley Jacobs, and Steven Casha


Thirty percent to sixty-four percent of patients experience poorly controlled pain following spine surgery, leading to patient dissatisfaction and poor outcomes. Identification of at-risk patients before surgery could facilitate patient education and personalized clinical care pathways to improve postoperative pain management. Accordingly, the aim of this study was to develop and internally validate a prediction score for poorly controlled postoperative pain in patients undergoing elective spine surgery.


A retrospective cohort study was performed in adult patients (≥ 18 years old) consecutively enrolled in the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network registry. All patients underwent elective cervical or thoracolumbar spine surgery and were admitted to the hospital. Poorly controlled postoperative pain was defined as a mean numeric rating scale score for pain at rest of > 4 during the first 24 hours after surgery. Univariable analysis followed by multivariable logistic regression on 25 candidate variables, selected through a systematic review and expert consensus, was used to develop a prediction model using a random 70% sample of the data. The model was transformed into an eight-tier risk-based score that was further simplified into the three-tier Calgary Postoperative Pain After Spine Surgery (CAPPS) score to maximize clinical utility. The CAPPS score was validated using the remaining 30% of the data.


Overall, 57% of 1300 spine surgery patients experienced poorly controlled pain during the first 24 hours after surgery. Seven significant variables associated with poor pain control were incorporated into a prediction model: younger age, female sex, preoperative daily use of opioid medication, higher preoperative neck or back pain intensity, higher Patient Health Questionnaire–9 depression score, surgery involving ≥ 3 motion segments, and fusion surgery. Notably, minimally invasive surgery, body mass index, and revision surgery were not associated with poorly controlled pain. The model was discriminative (C-statistic 0.74, 95% CI 0.71–0.77) and calibrated (Hosmer-Lemeshow goodness-of-fit, p = 0.99) at predicting the outcome. Low-, high-, and extreme-risk groups stratified using the CAPPS score had 32%, 63%, and 85% predicted probability of experiencing poorly controlled pain, respectively, which was mirrored closely by the observed incidence of 37%, 62%, and 81% in the validation cohort.


Inadequate pain control is common after spine surgery. The internally validated CAPPS score based on 7 easily acquired variables accurately predicted the probability of experiencing poorly controlled pain after spine surgery.