Survey of neurosurgical and orthopedic spine surgeons.
To define the “complications of spinal surgery,” we surveyed a large group of practicing spine surgeons to establish a preliminary definition of perioperative complications.
Summary of Background Data
Although the risk of complications following spinal procedures plays an important role in determining the appropriateness of surgical intervention, there is little consensus among spine surgeons regarding the definition of complications in spine surgery. The relevance of medical complications is also not clearly defined.
We surveyed a cohort of practicing spine surgeons via email and a commercially maintained website. Surgeons were presented with various complication scenarios, and asked to assess the presence or absence of a complication, as well as complication severity, with responses limited to “major complication” and “minor complication/adverse event.”
The survey was sent to approximately 2000 practicing surgeons; complete responses were received from 229, giving a response rate of 11.4%. Orthopedic surgeons comprised the majority of respondents (73%); most surgeons reported being in practice for greater than 5 years (83%). Greater than 75% of surgeons agreed on complication presence or absence in 10 of 11 scenarios assessed (91%, P<0.05). Consensus (≥70% agreement, P<0.05) as to type of complication was found in 7 of 11 scenarios presented (64%). Events deemed major complications involved either severe medical adverse events with permanent sequela or events requiring return to the operating room. Surgeons consistently considered medical adverse events, whether or not directly related to surgery, relevant to complication assessment.
We present a practical binary definition of complications in spine surgery based upon a survey of over 200 practicing spine surgeons. Further work is required in critically assessing spine surgery complications.