A scoring system to predict postoperative medical complications in high-risk patients undergoing elective thoracic and lumbar arthrodesis

Jacqueline L. Munch, Natalie L. Zusman, Elizabeth G. Lieberman, Ryland S. Stucke, Courtney Bell, Travis C. Philipp, Sawyer Smith, Alexander C. Ching, Robert A. Hart, Jung U. Yoo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background Context Various surgical factors affect the incidence of postoperative medical complications following elective spinal arthrodesis. Because of the inter-relatedness of these factors, it is difficult for clinicians to accurately risk-stratify individual patients. Purpose Our goal was to develop a scoring system that predicts the rate of major medical complications in patients with significant preoperative medical comorbidities, as a function of the four perioperative parameters that are most closely associated with the invasiveness of the surgical intervention. Study Design/Setting This study used level 2, Prognostic Retrospective Study. Patient Sample The patient sample consisted of 281 patients with American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) scores of 3-4 who underwent elective thoracic, lumbar, or thoracolumbar fusion surgeries from 2007 to 2011. Outcome Measures Physiologic risk factors, number of levels fused, complications, operative time, intraoperative fluids, and estimate blood loss were the outcome measures of this study. Methods Risk factors were recorded, and patients who suffered major medical complications within the 30-day postoperative period were identified. We used chi-square tests to identify factors that affect the medical complication rate. These factors were ranked and scored by quartiles. The quartile scores were combined to form a single composite score. We determined the major medical complication rate for each composite score, and divided the cohort into quartiles again based on score. A Pearson linear regression analysis was used to compare the incidence of complications to the score. Results The number of fused levels, operative time, volume of intraoperative fluids, and estimated blood loss influenced the complication rate of patients with ASA scores of 3-4. The quartile ranking of each of the four predictive factors was added, and the sum became the composite score. This score predicted the complication rate in a linear fashion ranging from 7.6% for the lowest risk group to 34.7% for the highest group (r=0.998, p<.001). Conclusions Taken together, the four factors, though not independent of one another, proved to be strongly predictive of the major medical complication rate. This score can be used to guide medical management of thoracic and lumbar spinal arthrodesis patients with preexisting medical comorbidities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-699
Number of pages6
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • Complications
  • High-risk
  • Lumbar fusion
  • Outcomes
  • Scoring
  • Thoracolumbar arthrodesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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