Eighty-six patients had a total of eighty-eight primary attempts at repair of a pseudarthrosis that had developed after a localized arthrodesis in the lumbar spine. A follow-up questionnaire was sent to all patients at a mean of fifty-one months (range, twenty-five to seventy-eight months) after the operation; seventy-two patients (84 per cent) completed the questionnaire. A solid fusion was ultimately achieved after the treatment of eighty-one (94 per cent) of the eighty-six pseudarthroses for which radiographic data were available. With the numbers available, we could find no significant association between a solid fusion and the patient's age, gender, body-mass index, return to work, or outcome score. Despite the high rate of fusion after the index repair and subsequent procedures, only nineteen (26 per cent) of the seventy-two patients who completed the questionnaire eventually had a good or excellent outcome. Seven (10 per cent) had an excellent result (90 to 100 points), twelve (17 per cent) had a good result (70 to 89 points), fourteen (19 per cent) had a fair result (50 to 69 points), and thirty-nine (54 per cent) had a poor result (less than 50 points). Nevertheless, fifty-one patients (71 per cent) reported that the operation had led to some improvement, and fifty-five (76 per cent) said that they would have the operation again if the circumstances were similar to those before the repair of the pseudarthrosis. Thirty-four of the seventy-two patients were smokers and thirty-eight were non-smokers at the time of the operation. There was a negative linear association between the outcome scores and the number of pack-years (p = 0.02). Cessation of smoking before the operation positively affected the outcome; the patients who had stopped smoking had a mean outcome score of 65 points, compared with 45 points for those who had not stopped (p = 0.03). Patients who had stopped smoking were also more likely to return to work full time (p < 0.001). At the latest follow-up evaluation, twenty of the seventy-two patients had returned to full-time employment. Patients who had been receiving Workers' Compensation at the time of the operation generally did poorly on the outcome questionnaire, but, with the numbers available, they did not have a significantly different rate of solid fusion than patients who had not been receiving Workers' Compensation. Also, the outcome score and the rate of fusion were not significantly affected by age or by obesity.
‡Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Washington 98431-5000.
§Orthopaedic Physicians, Incorporated, 1229 Madison Street, Suite 1600, Seattle, Washington 98104.