Study design: Prospective cohort study and systematic literature review.
Objective: To compare the functional outcomes for lumbar spinal fusion in both compensation and noncompensation patients in an environment of universal no fault compensation and then to compare these outcomes with those in worker's compensation and nonworkers compensation cohorts from other countries.
Summary of background data: Compensation has an adverse effect on outcomes in spine fusion possibly based on adversarial environment, delayed resolution of claims and care, and increased compensation associated with prolonged disability. It is unclear whether a universal no fault compensation system would provide different outcomes for these patients. New Zealand's Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) provides universal no fault compensation for personal injury secondary to accident and offers an opportunity to compare results with differing provision of compensation.
Methods: A total of 169 patients undergoing lumbar spinal fusion were assessed preoperatively, at 1 year, and at long-term follow-up out to 14 years, using functional outcome measures and health-related quality-of-life measures. Comparison was made between those covered and not covered by ACC for 3 distinct diagnostic categories. A systematic literature review comparing outcomes in Worker's Compensation and non-Compensation cohorts was also performed.
Results: The functional outcomes for both ACC and non-ACC cohorts were similar, with significant and comparable improvements over the first year that were then sustained out to long-term follow-up for both cohorts. At long-term follow-up, the health-related quality-of-life measures were the same between the 2 cohorts.The literature review revealed a marked difference in outcomes between worker's compensation and non-worker's compensation cohorts with a near universal inferior outcome for the compensation group.
Conclusion: The similarities in outcomes of patients undergoing lumbar spine fusion under New Zealand's universal no fault compensation system, when compared with the dramatically inferior outcomes for these patients under other worker's compensation systems, suggest that the system of compensation has a major influence on patient outcomes, and that change of compensation to a universal no fault system is beneficial for patients undergoing lumbar fusion surgery.
Level of evidence: 2.