In Spinal-Metastasis Surgery, High-Volume Yields Better Outcomes

Spinal Metastasis for OBuzzIn orthopaedics, the connection between a hospital/surgeon performing a surgical procedure many times and improved outcomes has been demonstrated compellingly with total joint replacement. In the October 18, 2017 edition of JBJS, Schoenfeld et al. show that this same volume-outcome relationship holds true in the surgical treatment of spinal metastases.

The study analyzed 3,135 patients treated by 1,488 surgeons at 162 hospitals throughout Florida. Using sophisticated statistics, the authors defined high-volume surgeons as those who had performed ≥49 procedures per year and high-volume hospitals as those at which ≥167 procedures per year had been performed.

Among the entire cohort, the 90-day complication rate was 26% and the readmission rate was 43%. (Rates that high are not unexpected with such risky spinal surgeries.) Here are the findings according to surgeon volume:

  • 21% complication rate for patients treated by high-volume surgeons
  • 30% complication rate for patients treated by low-volume surgeons
  • 37% readmission rate for patients treated by high-volume surgeons
  • 47% readmission rate for patients treated by low-volume surgeons

In other words, the relative odds of complications and readmissions following operations performed by low-volume surgeons were approximately 40% higher than those following operations done by high-volume surgeons. A similar percentage difference was found between the odds at low- and high-volume hospitals. In a secondary analysis, the authors found that African Americans and Hispanics were significantly less likely than white patients to receive care from a high-volume surgeon or at a high-volume hospital.

Schoenfeld et al. state that the ideal care for patients facing surgery for spinal metastases comes from a team of experienced surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, nurses, and support staff. They conclude that their findings “speak to the need for regionalization of subspecialty spinal oncology care as a means to optimize treatment for this cohort of patients.”

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