Spinal fusion outcomes: The patient characteristics that close the gap between hospitals, surgeons


A study published in Spine examined how the characteristics of patients affect spinal fusion outcomes, according to a report published in U.S. News & World Report.


The study examined 737 patients who underwent spinal fusion from 2012 to 2018. There were 58 surgeons who performed fusions across 17 hospitals for the study. Researchers found:

1. More than half, around 59 percent, of patients said their physical function improved by 12 months after surgery, while 42.5 percent said they still had minimal disability.

2. Depending on the hospital, as high as 79 percent or as low as 44 percent of patients reported functional improvement. There was a bigger gulf in percentage of patients who reported functional improvements when considering the reports by surgeons: 33 percent to 84 percent.

3. The differences between hospitals and surgeons narrowed when the researchers adjusted for factors such as age, smoking, insurance coverage and type of spinal disease.

4. The study authors concluded that differences in outcomes could be driven by patient characteristics instead of surgeon skill.

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