Background: Nutritional status is a critical factor in patient outcomes in a variety of medical contexts. In the surgical fields, there is substantial evidence suggesting that clinical outcomes including infection risk and surgical efficacy may be affected by preoperative nutritional status. The purpose of this study is to evaluate preoperative serum prealbumin levels, the currently preferred serum biomarker of nutritional deficiency, in relation to the risk of developing a surgical site infection.
Methods: A retrospective case-control series was conducted comparing prospectively collected preadmission serum prealbumin levels to the risk for surgical site infection following elective spine surgery. The analysis was conducted under an approved institutional quality assurance protocol. Patients were identified by querying the department billing codes for deep wound washouts over a 3-year period. A cohort of 32 patients with preoperative prealbumin levels who underwent spine surgery complicated by postoperative deep tissue infection was identified. This was compared against a case-control cohort of 74 patients who underwent spine surgery and did not experience postoperative infection. Clinical variables included demographic information, body mass index, smoking, diabetes, steroid use, length of the procedure, and length of hospital stay. The data were analyzed using multivariate Cox regression.
Results: Two variables: Preoperative prealbumin < 20 and diabetes were both statistically significant predictors for the risk of developing a postoperative infection with hazard ratios of 2.12 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.03-4.37) and 2.22 (95% CI: 1.04-4.75), respectively.
Conclusions: Our results reinforce the relationship between preoperative nutritional status and outcomes in elective spine surgery. The data indicate that preoperative prealbumin levels may be useful in risk stratification. Further study is needed to determine whether nutritional supplementation may reduce the risk of infection.
Keywords: Malnutrition; nutrition; prealbumin; spinal fusion; spine surgery.