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Trends, Complications, and Costs for Hospital Admission and Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Machado, Gustavo C. BPhty; Maher, Chris G. PhD; Ferreira, Paulo H. PhD; Harris, Ian A. MBBS, MMed (Clin Epi), PhD; Deyo, Richard A. MD, MPH§; McKay, Damien MBBS¶,||; Li, Qiang MBiostat; Ferreira, Manuela L. PhD∗∗

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000002207

Study Design. Population-based health record linkage study.

Objective. The aim of this study was to determine trends in hospital admissions and surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis, as well as complications and resource use in Australia.

Summary of Background Data. In the United States, rates of decompression surgery have declined, whereas those of fusion have increased. It is unclear whether this trend is also happening elsewhere.

Methods. We included patients 18 years and older admitted to a hospital in New South Wales between 2003 and 2013 who were diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis. We investigated the rates of hospital admission and surgical procedures, as well as hospital costs, length of hospital stay, and complications. Surgical procedures were: decompression alone, simple fusion (one to two disc levels, single approach), and complex fusion (three or more disc levels or a combined posterior and anterior approach).

Results. The rates of decompression alone increased from 19.0 to 22.1 per 100,000 people. Simple fusion rates increased from 1.3 to 2.8 per 100,000 people, whereas complex fusion increased from 0.6 to 2.4 per 100,000 people. The odds of major complications for complex fusion compared with decompression alone was 4.1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.7–10.1), although no significant difference was found for simple fusion (odds ratio 2.0, 95% CI: 0.7–6.1). Mean hospital costs with decompression surgery were AU $12,168, whereas simple and complex fusion cost AU $30,811 and AU $32,350, respectively.

Conclusion. In Australia, decompression rates for lumbar spinal stenosis increased from 2003 to 2013. The fastest increasing surgical procedure was complex fusion. This procedure increased the risk of major complications and resource, although recent evidence suggest fusion provides no additional benefits to the traditional decompression surgery.

Level of Evidence: 3

School of Public Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

South Western Sydney Clinical School, Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

§Department of Family Medicine, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR

Department of Rheumatology, Liverpool Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia

||Children's Hospital Institute of Sports Medicine, Sydney Children's Hospital Network, Sydney, NSW, Australia

∗∗The George Institute for Global Health & Institute of Bone and Joint Research, Sydney Medical School, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Gustavo C. Machado, BPhty, Level 10, King George V Building, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, 83-117 Missenden Road, Camperdown NSW 2050 Australia; E-mail:

Received 21 December, 2016

Revised 1 March, 2017

Accepted 21 March, 2017

The manuscript submited does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

Arthritis Australia and State & Territory Affiliate Project Grant from Arthritis South Australia, 2014 grant funds were received in support of this work.

Relevant financial activities outside the submitted work: grants, travel/accommodations/meeting expenses.

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