Risk of Infection after Spine Surgery is 2%

Comprehensive Findings Highlight Postoperative Infection Rates for Different Back Surgeries
Comprehensive Spine Surgery Findings

A review of more than 108,000 spine surgeries has found the overall risk of superficial or deep wound infections occurring after operation to be 2%, according to research presented from the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) at last week’s 24th Annual Meeting of the North American Spine Society (NASS).

After querying the SRS database for the years 2004-2007, researchers identified approximately 108,419 cases of superficial and deep wound infections following spine surgery. Approximately 44% of these cases involved surgery for degenerative conditions, 24% for scoliosis, 11% for spondylolisthesis, 6% for fractures and 3% for kyphosis.

According to the study’s findings, the overall rates of superficial and deep wound infections were respectively 0.8% and 1.2%, with infection rates varying anywhere from 1.4% for degenerative disease to 4.2% for kyphosis.

Minimally-invasive procedures like microdiscectomy and transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) were associated with lower rates of infection while spine surgeries that involved the use of implants and procedures that were revisions of prior surgeries had higher infection rates.

Spinal fusion surgeries also had a higher infection rate when compared to other surgeries, although these rates varied based on the fusion type and approach. For example, the infection rate for posterior fusions alone or anterior and posterior fusions combined was 3% and 5 times higher than the infection rate for anterior-only fusions (0.6%).

According to the authors of the study, the findings provide a benchmark of infection rates for surgeons to continue to learn about possible post-surgery complications and to improve future patient outcomes.

The authors also suggested that these findings may question whether certain wound infections following spine surgery should be listed as “never events,” or inexcusable outcomes in the healthcare setting, especially when considering that some wound infections can still occur despite detailed efforts by surgeons to avoid them.

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Smith J, Shaffrey C, Sansur, C. et al. Rates of infection following spine surgery based on 108,419 procedures: A report form the Scoliosis Research Society Morbidity and Mortality Committee. Paper #138. Presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the North American Spine Society. Nov. 10-14, 2009. San Francisco. and OrthoSupersite