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Smoking as a Predictor of Negative Outcome in Lumbar Spinal Fusion

Andersen, Thomas, MS; Christensen, Finn B., MD, PhD; Laursen, Malene, MD; Høy, Kristian, MD; Hansen, Ebbe S., MD, DMSc; Bünger, Cody, MD, DMSc

Health Services Research

Study Design.  A review of the smoking habits in 426 patients who had been followed prospectively for 2 years after a lumbar spinal fusion procedure was conducted.

Objective.  To analyze the effect of pre- and postoperative smoking on clinical and functional outcome after lumbar spinal fusion.

Summary of Background Data.  Several animal models have shown a negative effect of nicotine on spinal fusion. At this writing, the clinical effect of nicotine on spinal fusion has not been fully clarified.

Methods.  The study comprised 426 patients who underwent lumbar spinal fusion between 1993 and 1997. These patients received a mailed questionnaire regarding their tobacco consumption before and after their surgery. All other data, including preoperative clinical and functional status, were collected prospectively during a 2-year follow-up period. To assess functional outcome, the Dallas Pain Questionnaire was used.

Results.  The questionnaire was answered by 396 patients (93%). Of these patients, 54.5% (20% more than the background population) were smokers before the operation. Smoking of more than 10 cigarettes daily before the operation and attempted fusion at two or more levels increased the risk of nonunion: odds ratio, 2.01 (P < 0.016) and odds ratio, 3.03 (P < 0.001), respectively. Smoking cessation increased fusion rates to near those of nonsmokers. Smoking had no influence on functional outcome, as assessed by the Dallas Pain Questionnaire, but preoperative smoking predicted a negative answer to the question “Would you undergo the same treatment again, now that you know the result?” (odds ratio, 1.65;P < 0.054).

Conclusions.  Smoking was shown to have a negative effect on fusion and overall patient satisfaction, but no measurable influence on the functional outcome as assessed by the Dallas Pain Questionnaire.

From the Spine Unit, Department of Orthopaedics E, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.

Device status category: 1.

Conflict of interest category: 12.

Address reprint requests to

Thomas Andersen

Orthopaedic Research Laboratory

Building 1A

Aarhus University Hospital

Nørrebrogade 44

DK-8000 Aarhus C



© 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.