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Open Access Publications from the University of California

How do validated measures of functional outcome compare with commonly used outcomes in administrative database research for lumbar spinal surgery?

  • Author(s): Omoto, Daniel
  • Bederman, S. Samuel
  • Yee, Albert J.
  • Kreder, Hans J.
  • Finkelstein, Joel A.
  • et al.

Clinical interpretation of health services research based on administrative databases is limited by the lack of patient-reported functional outcome measures. Reoperation, as a surrogate measure for poor outcome, may be biased by preferences of patients and surgeons and may even be planned a priori. Other available administrative data outcomes, such as postoperative cross sectional imaging (PCSI), may better reflect changes in functional outcome. The purpose was to determine if postoperative events captured from administrative databases, namely reoperation and PCSI, reflect outcomes as derived by validated functional outcome measures (short form 36 scores, Oswestry disability index) for patients who underwent discretionary surgery for specific degenerative conditions of the lumbar spine such as disc herniation, spinal stenosis, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and isthmic spondylolisthesis. After reviewing the records of all patients surgically treated for disc herniation, spinal stenosis, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and isthmic spondylolisthesis at our institution, we recorded the occurrence of PCSI (MRI or CT-myelograms) and reoperations, as well as demographic, surgical, and functional outcome data. We determined how early (within 6 months) and intermediate (within 18 months) term events (PCSI and reoperations) were associated with changes in intermediate (minimum 1 year) and late (minimum 2 years) term functional outcome, respectively. We further evaluated how early (6–12 months) and intermediate (12–24 months) term changes in functional outcome were associated with the subsequent occurrence of intermediate (12–24 months) and late (beyond 24 months) term adverse events, respectively. From 148 surgically treated patients, we found no significant relationship between the occurrence of PCSI or reoperation and subsequent changes in functional outcome at intermediate or late term. Similarly, earlier changes in functional outcome did not have any significant relationship with subsequent occurrences of adverse events at intermediate or late term. Although it may be tempting to consider administrative database outcome measures as proxies for poor functional outcome, we cannot conclude that a significant relationship exists between the occurrence of PCSI or reoperation and changes in functional outcome.

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