Trends, Complications, and Costs for Hospital Admission and Surgery for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2017 Nov 15;42(22):1737-1743. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000002207.


MINI: Trends in lumbar spinal stenosis surgery are largely unknown outside of the United States. This population-based health record linkage study revealed that complex fusion surgery had a four-fold increase from 2003-2013 in Australia. This surgical procedure increased the risk of complications and resource use compared with decompression surgery alone.

Study design: Population-based health record linkage study.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine trends in hospital admissions and surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis, as well as complications and resource use in Australia.

Summary of background data: In the United States, rates of decompression surgery have declined, whereas those of fusion have increased. It is unclear whether this trend is also happening elsewhere.

Methods: We included patients 18 years and older admitted to a hospital in New South Wales between 2003 and 2013 who were diagnosed with lumbar spinal stenosis. We investigated the rates of hospital admission and surgical procedures, as well as hospital costs, length of hospital stay, and complications. Surgical procedures were: decompression alone, simple fusion (one to two disc levels, single approach), and complex fusion (three or more disc levels or a combined posterior and anterior approach).

Results: The rates of decompression alone increased from 19.0 to 22.1 per 100,000 people. Simple fusion rates increased from 1.3 to 2.8 per 100,000 people, whereas complex fusion increased from 0.6 to 2.4 per 100,000 people. The odds of major complications for complex fusion compared with decompression alone was 4.1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.7-10.1), although no significant difference was found for simple fusion (odds ratio 2.0, 95% CI: 0.7-6.1). Mean hospital costs with decompression surgery were AU $12,168, whereas simple and complex fusion cost AU $30,811 and AU $32,350, respectively.

Conclusion: In Australia, decompression rates for lumbar spinal stenosis increased from 2003 to 2013. The fastest increasing surgical procedure was complex fusion. This procedure increased the risk of major complications and resource, although recent evidence suggest fusion provides no additional benefits to the traditional decompression surgery.

Level of evidence: 3.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decompression, Surgical / adverse effects
  • Decompression, Surgical / economics
  • Decompression, Surgical / trends*
  • Female
  • Hospital Costs / trends*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / trends
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Patient Admission / economics
  • Patient Admission / trends*
  • Postoperative Complications / economics
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects
  • Spinal Fusion / economics
  • Spinal Fusion / trends*
  • Spinal Stenosis / economics
  • Spinal Stenosis / epidemiology
  • Spinal Stenosis / surgery*