Charles H. Crawford III, Leah Y. Carreon, Mladen Djurasovic, Steven D. Glassman

June 2008, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 822 - 825 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-008-0610-4

First Online: 29 January 2008

Although outcomes after cervical fusion in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients are widely published, outcomes of lumbar fusion in RA patients has not been reported. Ninteen patients with RA, identified using ICD-9 and CPT codes, who underwent instrumented posterolateral lumbar fusion were matched for age, gender, smoking status, date, and level of surgery to a contemporaneous non-RA group. Medical records and radiographs were reviewed by the primary author who had no role in the treatment of these patients. The average age was 64 years in the RA group and 65 years in the non-RA group. The male to female ratio was 2:17 and 1:18, respectively. There were three smokers and two diabetics in each group. An average of 1.5 levels was fused in each group. Average follow-up was 24 and 27 months, respectively. In the RA group, 15 patients were taking DMARDs with 7 of those also taking oral steroids; 4 patients were taking NSAIDs only. There were seven complications (37%) in the RA group versus four (21%) in the non-RA group; wound infections in three patients (16%) in the RA group versus one (5%) in the non-RA group; and non-union in two patients (11%) in the RA group versus three (16%) in the non-RA group. Clinical outcomes were similar between the two groups with 74% of patients achieving good to excellent results in the RA group compared to 63% in the non-RA group (p = 0.692). Surgeons and their RA patients who undergo an instrumented lumbar fusion can expect a slightly higher complication rate than patients without RA which may be related to osteopenia and immunosuppression.

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