Use of surgical site drains following posterior cervical spine surgery is variable, and its impact on outcomes remains controversial. Studies of drain use in the lumbar spine have suggested that drains are not associated with reduction of reoperations for wound infection or hematoma. There is a paucity of studies examining this relationship in the cervical spine, where hematomas and infections can have severe consequences. This study aims to examine the relationship between surgical site drains and reoperation for wound-related complications following posterior cervical spine surgery.
This study is a multicenter retrospective review of 1799 consecutive patients who underwent posterior cervical decompression with instrumentation at 4 tertiary care centers between 2004 and 2016. Demographic and perioperative data were analyzed for associations with drain placement and return to the operating room.
Of 1799 patients, 1180 (65.6%) had a drain placed. Multivariate logistic regression analysis identified history of diabetes (OR 1.37, p = 0.03) and total number of levels operated (OR 1.32, p < 0.001) as independent predictors of drain placement. Rates of reoperation for any surgical site complication were not different between the drain and no-drain groups (4.07% vs 3.88%, p = 0.85). Similarly, rates of reoperation for surgical site infection (1.61% vs 2.58%, p = 0.16) and hematoma (0.68% vs 0.48%, p = 0.62) were not different between the drain and no-drain groups. However, after adjusting for history of diabetes and the number of operative levels, patients with drains had significantly lower odds of returning to the operating room for surgical site infection (OR 0.48, p = 0.04) but not for hematoma (OR 1.22, p = 0.77).
This large study characterizes current practice patterns in the utilization of surgical site drains during posterior cervical decompression and instrumentation. Patients with drains placed did not have lower odds of returning to the operating room for postoperative hematoma. However, the authors’ data suggest that patients with drains may be less likely to return to the operating room for surgical site infection, although the absolute number of infections in the entire population was small, limiting the analysis.