Influence of racial disparities on patient-reported satisfaction and short- and long-term perception of health status after elective lumbar spine surgery

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In spine surgery, racial disparities have been shown to impact various aspects of surgical care. Previous studies have associated racial disparities with inferior surgical outcomes, including increased complication and 30-day readmission rates after spine surgery. Recently, patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and satisfaction measures have been proxies for overall quality of care and hospital reimbursements. However, the influence that racial disparities have on short- and long-term PROs and patient satisfaction after spine surgery is relatively unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of racial disparities on 3- and 12-month PROs and patient satisfaction after elective lumbar spine surgery.


This study was designed as a retrospective analysis of a prospectively maintained database. The medical records of adult (age ≥ 18 years) patients who had undergone elective lumbar spine surgery for spondylolisthesis (grade 1), disc herniation, or stenosis at a major academic institution were included in this study. Patient demographics, comorbidities, postoperative complications, and 30-day readmission rates were collected. Patients had prospectively collected outcome and satisfaction measures. Patient-reported outcome instruments—Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), visual analog scale for back pain (VAS-BP), and VAS for leg pain (VAS-LP)—were completed before surgery and at 3 and 12 months after surgery, as were patient satisfaction measures.


The authors identified 345 medical records for 53 (15.4%) African American (AA) patients and 292 (84.6%) white patients. Baseline patient demographics and comorbidities were similar between the two cohorts, with AA patients having a greater body mass index (33.1 ± 6.6 vs 30.2 ± 6.4 kg/m2, p = 0.005) and a higher prevalence of diabetes (35.9% vs 16.1%, p = 0.0008). Surgical indications, operative variables, and postoperative variables were similar between the cohorts. Baseline and follow-up PRO measures were worse in the AA cohort, with patients having a greater baseline ODI (p < 0.0001), VAS-BP score (p = 0.0002), and VAS-LP score (p = 0.0007). However, mean changes from baseline to 3- and 12-month PROs were similar between the cohorts for all measures except the 3-month VAS-BP score (p = 0.046). Patient-reported satisfaction measures at 3 and 12 months demonstrated a significantly lower proportion of AA patients stating that surgery met their expectations (3 months: 47.2% vs 65.5%, p = 0.01; 12 months: 35.7% vs 62.7%, p = 0.007).


The study data suggest that there is a significant difference in the perception of health, pain, and disability between AA and white patients at baseline and short- and long-term follow-ups, which may influence overall patient satisfaction. Further research is necessary to identify patient-specific factors associated with racial disparities that may be influencing outcomes to adequately measure and assess overall PROs and satisfaction after elective lumbar spine surgery.

ABBREVIATIONS AA = African American; BMI = body mass index; CAD = coronary artery disease; DVT = deep vein thrombosis; IQR = interquartile range; ODI = Oswestry Disability Index; PE = pulmonary embolism; PRO = patient-reported outcome; UTI = urinary tract infection; VAS-BP = visual analog scale for back pain; VAS-LP = VAS for leg pain.

Article Information

Correspondence Oren N. Gottfried: Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online April 27, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2017.12.SPINE171079.

Disclosures Dr. Karikari has been a consultant for NuVasive.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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