Elective cervical discectomy in California: postoperative in-hospital complications and their risk factors

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1997 Nov 15;22(22):2677-92. doi: 10.1097/00007632-199711150-00018.


Study design: A retrospective cohort study of short-term outcomes after elective cervical discectomy in California hospitals.

Objectives: To compare the frequency of elective cervical discectomy across population strata, to determine the frequency of adverse outcomes in the early postoperative period, and to identify risk factors for such outcomes.

Summary of background data: Previous cervical discectomy series have been too small to analyze risk factors for early complications, and have originated from centers that may not adequately represent the population.

Methods: Computerized hospital discharge abstracts were obtained from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to identify 10,416 routine discectomies at 257 hospitals in 1990-1991. Several categories of postoperative complications were identified, along with inpatient deaths, early reoperations, and nursing home transfers. Logistic regression was used to estimate the independent effects of patient characteristics on short-term outcomes.

Results: After adjustment for age and gender, blacks were 51% and Hispanics were 24% as likely as whites to undergo elective cervical discectomy. Overall, 6.7% of patients had one or more reported postoperative complications: 1.8% had noninfectious surgical complications, 1.8% had infectious complications, 4.0% had other medical complications, and 0.35% had unplanned reoperations before discharge. Fourteen inpatient deaths were reported (0.13%). Congestive heart failure, alcohol/drug abuse, chronic lung disease, previous spine surgery, psychological disorders, and chronic musculoskeletal disorders were independently associated with postoperative complications. Even after adjustment, risk was higher with advancing age, higher among women than among men, and higher after posterior fusion than after discectomy without fusion.

Conclusions: The ethnic disparity in cervical discectomy rates suggests overuse among whites or underuse among minority populations. The complication rates reported here are similar to those synthesized from previous literature, except that the lower incidence of neurologic complications reflects our inability to distinguish preoperative from postoperative deficits. Important comorbidities should be identified and treated, if appropriate, before cervical spine surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • California
  • Cervical Vertebrae
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diskectomy*
  • Elective Surgical Procedures
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Postoperative Complications / mortality*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Outcome