A decade's experience in lumbar spine surgery in Belgium: sickness fund beneficiaries, 2000-2009

Eur Spine J. 2012 Dec;21(12):2693-703. doi: 10.1007/s00586-012-2381-1. Epub 2012 Jun 3.


Purpose: The purpose is to study rates, trends, geographic variations and outcome of lumbar spine surgery in the Belgian population during the last decade.

Methods: This is a retrospective cohort study using administrative data of the largest Belgian sickness fund from January 1, 2000 through December 31, 2009. Cases included lumbar laminectomy, combined discectomy and fusion, posterior interarticular fusion, anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) and standard discectomy. The main outcome measures were age- and sex-adjusted rates of lumbar spine surgery, 1-year mortality, 1-year iterative surgery, no return to work (RTW) rate 1 year after surgery and length of hospital stay. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to determine the association between age, sex, geographic region, type of surgery, year of intervention and duration of pre-operative sick leave on outcome.

Results: Spine surgery rates rose 44 % from 2001 through 2009 and data for 2009 showed twofold variations in spine surgery rates among 10 Belgian provinces. Reported 1-year mortality varied from 0.6 to 2.5 % among surgical procedures performed in 2008. The overall 5-year reoperation rate was 12 %. RTW rates 1 year after standard discectomy, ALIF, PLIF and combined discectomy and fusion for the follow-up sample of 2008 were 14.4, 22.7, 26.1 and 30.6 %, respectively. The median length of hospital stay significantly decreased throughout the decade. Type of surgery and geographic region were significantly related to patient outcomes.

Conclusions: Regional variations highlight professional uncertainty and controversy. The study results point to the need for peer comparisons and surgeon feedback.

MeSH terms

  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedic Procedures / mortality
  • Orthopedic Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Orthopedic Procedures / trends*
  • Reoperation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome