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National in-hospital morbidity and mortality trends after lumbar fusion surgery between 1998 and 2008

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Increasing numbers of posterior lumbar fusions are being performed. The purpose of this study was to identify trends in demographics, mortality and major complications in patients undergoing primary posterior lumbar fusion. We accessed data collected for the Nationwide Inpatient Sample for each year between 1998 and 2008 and analysed trends in the number of lumbar fusions, mean patient age, comorbidity burden, length of hospital stay, discharge status, major peri-operative complications and mortality. An estimated 1 288 496 primary posterior lumbar fusion operations were performed between 1998 and 2008 in the United States. The total number of procedures, mean patient age and comorbidity burden increased over time. Hospital length of stay decreased, although the in-hospital mortality (adjusted and unadjusted for changes in length of hospital stay) remained stable. However, a significant increase was observed in peri-operative septic, pulmonary and cardiac complications. Although in-hospital mortality rates did not change over time in the setting of increases in mean patient age and comorbidity burden, some major peri-operative complications increased. These trends highlight the need for appropriate peri-operative services to optimise outcomes in an increasingly morbid and older population of patients undergoing lumbar fusion.

Correspondence should be sent to Dr S. G. Memtsoudis; e-mail:

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