Rikke Soegaard, Cody E. Bünger, Terkel Christiansen, Finn B. Christensen

November 2007, Volume 16, Issue 11, pp 1822 - 1831 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-007-0378-y

First Online: 23 May 2007

Up to one third of patients undergoing lumbar spinal fusion show no improvement after the procedure and thus, despite evidence from RCTs, there might be a rationale for observational studies clarifying indications. Similarly, selection of the right patients for the right procedure could have significant impact on cost-effectiveness, which in some countries, in turn, affects whether procedures are to be available through the National Health Service. The aim of this study was to investigate determinants of cost-effectiveness in lumbar spinal fusion. An observational cohort study with 2-year follow-up was conducted: 695 patients who underwent lumbar spinal fusion from 1996 to 2002 were included and followed for 2 years. Patients had a localized segmental pathology and were diagnosed with MRI-verified isthmic spondylolisthesis (26%) or disc degeneration (74%). The surgical techniques were non-instrumented posterolateral fusion (14%), instrumented posterolateral fusion (54%), and circumferential fusion (32%). Societal costs and improvement in functional disability (Dallas Pain Questionnaire) were transformed into a net benefit measure. Classical linear regression of the net benefit was conducted using predictors of age, sex, diagnosis, duration of pain, smoking habits, occupational status, severity of disability, emotional distress, surgical technique, and number of levels fused. The main results were that two determinants were found to negatively influence net benefit: smoking and diagnosis, whereas two others were found to be positively associated with the net benefit: severe disability and emotional distress. In conclusion, predicting net benefit reverses the picture usually seen in studies predicting clinical outcomes, because the response variable is based on improvement over time rather than end-point measures alone. Smoking habits, diagnosis, pre-operative disability, and pre-operative emotional distress were found to be significantly associated with the net benefit of spinal fusion.

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