Patient characteristics of smokers undergoing lumbar spine surgery: an analysis from the Quality Outcomes Database.


OBJECTIVE In this analysis the authors compare the characteristics of smokers to nonsmokers using demographic, socioeconomic, and comorbidity variables. They also investigate which of these characteristics are most strongly associated with smoking status. Finally, the authors investigate whether the association between known patient risk factors and disability outcome is differentially modified by patient smoking status for those who have undergone surgery for lumbar degeneration. METHODS A total of 7547 patients undergoing degenerative lumbar surgery were entered into a prospective multicenter registry (Quality Outcomes Database [QOD]). A retrospective analysis of the prospectively collected data was conducted. Patients were dichotomized as smokers (current smokers) and nonsmokers. Multivariable logistic regression analysis fitted for patient smoking status and subsequent measurement of variable importance was performed to identify the strongest patient characteristics associated with smoking status. Multivariable linear regression models fitted for 12-month Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores in subsets of smokers and nonsmokers was performed to investigate whether differential effects of risk factors by smoking status might be present. RESULTS In total, 18% (n = 1365) of patients were smokers and 82% (n = 6182) were nonsmokers. In a multivariable logistic regression analysis, the factors significantly associated with patients' smoking status were sex (p < 0.0001), age (p < 0.0001), body mass index (p < 0.0001), educational status (p < 0.0001), insurance status (p < 0.001), and employment/occupation (p = 0.0024). Patients with diabetes had lowers odds of being a smoker (p = 0.0008), while patients with coronary artery disease had greater odds of being a smoker (p = 0.044). Patients' propensity for smoking was also significantly associated with higher American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) class (p < 0.0001), anterior-alone surgical approach (p = 0.018), greater number of levels (p = 0.0246), decompression only (p = 0.0001), and higher baseline ODI score (p < 0.0001). In a multivariable proportional odds logistic regression model, the adjusted odds ratio of risk factors and direction of improvement in 12-month ODI scores remained similar between the subsets of smokers and nonsmokers. CONCLUSIONS Using a large, national, multiinstitutional registry, the authors described the profile of patients who undergo lumbar spine surgery and its association with their smoking status. Compared with nonsmokers, smokers were younger, male, nondiabetic, nonobese patients presenting with leg pain more so than back pain, with higher ASA classes, higher disability, less education, more likely to be unemployed, and with Medicaid/uninsured insurance status. Smoking status did not affect the association between these risk factors and 12-month ODI outcome, suggesting that interventions for modifiable risk factors are equally efficacious between smokers and nonsmokers.





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Publication Info

Asher, Anthony L, Clinton J Devin, Brandon McCutcheon, Silky Chotai, Kristin R Archer, Hui Nian, Frank E Harrell, Matthew McGirt, et al. (2017). Patient characteristics of smokers undergoing lumbar spine surgery: an analysis from the Quality Outcomes Database. Journal of neurosurgery. Spine, 27(6). pp. 661–669. 10.3171/2017.4.spine16984 Retrieved from

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Christopher Ignatius Shaffrey

Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

I have more than 25 years of experience treating patients of all ages with spinal disorders. I have had an interest in the management of spinal disorders since starting my medical education. I performed residencies in both orthopaedic surgery and neurosurgery to gain a comprehensive understanding of the entire range of spinal disorders. My goal has been to find innovative ways to manage the range of spinal conditions, straightforward to complex. I have a focus on managing patients with complex spinal disorders. My patient evaluation and management philosophy is to provide engaged, compassionate care that focuses on providing the simplest and least aggressive treatment option for a particular condition. In many cases, non-operative treatment options exist to improve a patient’s symptoms. I have been actively engaged in clinical research to find the best ways to manage spinal disorders in order to achieve better results with fewer complications.

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