Study Design. Retrospective review of a prospectively collected database.
Objective. Our objective was to assess the rates of postoperative wound infection associated with spine surgery.
Summary of Background Data. Although wound infection after spine surgery remains a common source of morbidity, estimates of its rates of occurrence remain relatively limited. The Scoliosis Research Society prospectively collects morbidity and mortality data from its members, including the occurrence of wound infection.
Methods. The Scoliosis Research Society morbidity and mortality database was queried for all reported spine surgery cases from 2004 to 2007. Cases were stratified based on factors including diagnosis, adult (≥21 years) versus pediatric (<21 years), primary versus revision, use of implants, and whether a minimally invasive approach was used. Superficial, deep, and total infection rates were calculated.
Results. In total, 108,419 cases were identified, with an overall total infection rate of 2.1% (superficial = 0.8%, deep = 1.3%). Based on primary diagnosis, total postoperative wound infection rate for adults ranged from 1.4% for degenerative disease to 4.2% for kyphosis. Postoperative wound infection rates for pediatric patients ranged from 0.9% for degenerative disease to 5.4% for kyphosis. Rate of infection was further stratified based on subtype of degenerative disease, type of scoliosis, and type of kyphosis for both adult and pediatric patients. Factors associated with increased rate of infection included revision surgery (P < 0.001), performance of spinal fusion (P < 0.001), and use of implants (P < 0.001). Compared with a traditional open approach, use of a minimally invasive approach was associated with a lower rate of infection for lumbar discectomy (0.4% vs. 1.1%; P < 0.001) and for transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (1.3% vs. 2.9%; P = 0.005).
Conclusion. Our data suggest that postsurgical infection, even among skilled spine surgeons, is an inherent potential complication. These data provide general benchmarks of infection rates as a basis for ongoing efforts to improve safety of care.