Fast-track protocols for patients undergoing spine surgery: a systematic review

BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2023 Jan 23;24(1):57. doi: 10.1186/s12891-022-06123-w.


Background context: Fast-track is an evidence-based multidisciplinary strategy for pre-, intra-, and postoperative management of patients during major surgery. To date, fast-track has not been recognized or accepted in all surgical areas, particularly in orthopedic spine surgery where it still represents a relatively new paradigm.

Purpose: The aim of this review was provided an evidenced-based assessment of specific interventions, measurement, and associated outcomes linked to enhanced recovery pathways in spine surgery field.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review in three databases from February 2012 to August 2022 to assess the pre-, intra-, and postoperative key elements and the clinical evidence of fast-track protocols as well as specific interventions and associated outcomes, in patients undergoing to spine surgery.

Results: We included 57 full-text articles of which most were retrospective. Most common fast-track elements included patient's education, multimodal analgesia, thrombo- and antibiotic prophylaxis, tranexamic acid use, urinary catheter and drainage removal within 24 hours after surgery, and early mobilization and nutrition. All studies demonstrated that these interventions were able to reduce patients' length of stay (LOS) and opioid use. Comparative studies between fast-track and non-fast-track protocols also showed improved pain scores without increasing complication or readmission rates, thus improving patient's satisfaction and functional recovery.

Conclusions: According to the review results, fast-track seems to be a successful tool to reduce LOS, accelerate return of function, minimize postoperative pain, and save costs in spine surgery. However, current studies are mainly on degenerative spine diseases and largely restricted to retrospective studies with non-randomized data, thus multicenter randomized trials comparing fast-track outcomes and implementation are mandatory to confirm its benefit in spine surgery.

Keywords: Fast-track; Intra- and postoperative elements; Lengths of stay; Pain; Pre-; Spine surgery.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Orthopedics*
  • Pain, Postoperative / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Diseases* / complications
  • Spinal Diseases* / surgery
  • Spine / surgery