Health-Related Quality of Life Scores Underestimate the Impact of Major Complications in Lumbar Degenerative Scoliosis Surgery

Spine Deform. 2018 Jan;6(1):67-71. doi: 10.1016/j.jspd.2017.05.003.


Study design: Retrospective cohort.

Objective: To examine Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCMI) as a marker for deterioration in health status not reflected in standard Health Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) measures.

Summary of background data: HRQOL has become a primary metric for assessing outcomes following spinal deformity surgery. However, studies have reported limited impact of complications on postoperative HRQOL outcomes.

Methods: We examined serial CCMI, complications, and HRQOL outcomes for 138 adult lumbar deformity patients treated surgically with a minimum two-year follow-up that included 126 females (91%) with a mean age of 59.8 years (range, 40.2-78.5). Patients with no, minor, or major complications were compared at baseline and at one and two years postoperation.

Results: Minor complications were observed in 26 patients (19%) and major complications in 15 (11%). Major complications included motor deficit (7), deep vein thrombosis (4), and respiratory failure (3). There was no difference in preoperative SF-36 Physical Component Summary or Scoliosis Research Society-22R (SRS-22R) scores among the groups at baseline. Preoperative CCMI was lowest in the No Complication group (3.52 ± 1.70) followed by the Major (4.00 ± 1.13) and Minor Complication groups (4.15 ± 1.71, p = .165). At one year, there was a significantly greater CCMI deterioration in the Major Complication group (0.80 ± 1.01) compared to both the Minor (0.08 ± 0.27) and No Complication groups (0.27 ± 0.47, p < .001). There was no significant difference in SF-36 Physical Component Summary or SRS-22R scores among the three groups. Similar findings were observed at two years.

Conclusions: Despite similar one- and two-year HRQOL improvement, patients with major complications had greater deterioration in CCMI. As CCMI is predictive of medical and surgical risk, patients who sustained a major complication now carry a greater likelihood of adverse outcomes with future interventions, including any subsequent spinal surgery. Although this increased risk may not alter the patient's perception of his or her current health status, it may be important, and should be recognized as part of the shared decision-making process.

Level of evidence: Level II, high-quality prognostic study.

Keywords: Adult spinal deformity; Complications; Lumbar scoliosis; Patient-reported outcomes; Prospective cohort.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / psychology*
  • Postoperative Period
  • Quality of Life*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis / psychology*
  • Scoliosis / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome