ASA grade and Charlson Comorbidity Index of spinal surgery patients: correlation with complications and societal costs

Spine J. 2014 Jan;14(1):31-8. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.03.011. Epub 2013 Apr 17.


Background context: The Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) and the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Physical Status Classification System (ASA grade) are useful for predicting morbidity and mortality for a variety of disease processes.

Purpose: To evaluate CCI and ASA grade as predictors of complications after spinal surgery and examine the correlation between these comorbidity indices and the cost of care.

Study design/setting: Prospective observational study.

Patient sample: All patients undergoing any spine surgery at a single academic tertiary center over a 6-month period.

Outcome measures: Direct health-care costs estimated from diagnosis related group and Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes.

Methods: Demographic data, including all patient comorbidities, procedural data, and all complications, occurring within 30 days of the index procedure were prospectively recorded. Charlson Comorbidity Index was calculated from International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes and ASA grades determined from the operative record. Diagnosis related group and CPT codes were captured for each patient. Direct costs were estimated from a societal perspective using Medicare rates of reimbursement. A multivariable analysis was performed to assess the association of the CCI and ASA grade to the rate of complication and direct health-care costs.

Results: Two hundred twenty-six cases were analyzed. The average CCI score for the patient cohort was 0.92, and the average ASA grade was 2.65. The CCI and ASA grade were significantly correlated, with Spearman ρ of 0.458 (p<.001). Both CCI and ASA grade were associated with increasing body mass index (p<.01) and increasing patient age (p<.0001). Increasing CCI was associated with an increasing likelihood of occurrence of any complication (p=.0093) and of minor complications (p=.0032). Increasing ASA grade was significantly associated with an increasing likelihood of occurrence of a major complication (p=.0035). Increasing ASA grade showed a significant association with increasing direct costs (p=.0062).

Conclusions: American Society of Anesthesiologists and CCI scores are useful comorbidity indices for the spine patient population, although neither was completely predictive of complication occurrence. A spine-specific comorbidity index, based on ICD-9-CM coding that could be easily captured from patient records, and which is predictive of patient likelihood of complications and mortality, would be beneficial in patient counseling and choice of operative intervention.

Keywords: American Society of Anesthesiologists grade; Charlson Comorbidity Index; Complications; Societal costs; Spinal surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Comorbidity
  • Cost of Illness
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Orthopedic Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Orthopedic Procedures / economics
  • Postoperative Complications / economics
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spinal Diseases / economics
  • Spinal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery*
  • Spine / surgery*