In an era of escalating health care costs and pressure to improve efficiency and cost of care, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) have emerged as lower-cost options for many surgical therapies. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is one of the most prevalent spine surgeries performed, and the frequency of its performance is rapidly increasing as the aging population grows. Although ASCs offer significant cost advantages over hospital-based surgical centers, concern over the safety of outpatient ACDF has slowed its adoption. The authors intended to 1) determine the safety of the first 1000 consecutive ACDF surgeries performed in their outpatient ASC, and 2) compare the safety of these outpatient ACDFs with that of consecutive ACDFs performed during the same time period in the hospital setting.
A total of 1000 consecutive patients who underwent ACDF in an ACS (outpatient ACDF) and 484 consecutive patients who underwent ACDF at Vanderbilt University Hospital (inpatient ACDF) from 2006 to 2013 were included in this retrospective study of patients' medical records. Data were collected on patient demographics, comorbidities, operative details, and perioperative and 90-day morbidity. Perioperative morbidity and hospital readmission were compared between the outpatient and inpatient ACDF groups.
Of the first 1000 outpatient ACDF cases performed in the authors' ASC, 629 (62.9%) were 1-level and 365 (36.5%) were 2-level ACDFs. Mean patient age was 49.5 ± 8.6, and 484 (48.4%) were males. All patients were observed postoperatively at the ASC postanesthesia care unit (PACU) for 4 hours before being discharged home. Eight patients (0.8%) were transferred from the surgery center to the hospital postoperatively (for pain control [n = 3], chest pain and electrocardiogram changes [n = 2], intraoperative CSF leak [n = 1], postoperative hematoma [n = 1], and profound postoperative weakness and surgical reexploration [n = 1]). No perioperative deaths occurred. The 30-day hospital readmission rate was 2.2%. All 90-day surgical morbidity was similar between outpatient and inpatient cohorts for both 1-level and 2-level ACDFs.
An analysis of 1000 consecutive patients who underwent ACDF in an outpatient setting demonstrates that surgical complications occur at a low rate (1%) and can be appropriately diagnosed and managed in a 4-hour ASC PACU window. Comparison with an inpatient ACDF surgery cohort demonstrated similar results, highlighting that ACDF can be safely performed in the outpatient ambulatory surgery setting without compromising surgical safety. In an effort to decrease costs of care, surgeons can safely perform 1- and 2-level ACDFs in an ASC environment.