Multiple-day drainage when using bone morphogenic protein for long-segment thoracolumbar fusions is associated with low rates of wound complications.

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Concerns over increased wound complication rates have been raised when bone morphogenic protein (BMP) is used as an adjunct for fusion in spinal surgery. This study evaluated 87 consecutive patients undergoing long-segment thoracolumbar spinal fusions with BMP to assess drain output and the rates of reoperation for infection or seroma.


Inclusion criteria included patients undergoing 4 or more levels of posterior instrumented thoracolumbar fusion, use of BMP, age >18 years, and a perioperative follow-up of ≥60 days. Drain output, length of time of drainage, and need for reoperation for wound seroma or infection were reviewed.


A total of 87 patients met inclusion criteria and had a mean age of 58.5 years (SD 16, range 20 to 81). The average number of levels instrumented and arthrodesed with BMP was 9.2 (SD 3.7; range 4 to 18), and the average dose of BMP used was 31.2 mg (SD 9.6, range 12 to 48) or 2.6 large sponges. Patients required drainage for a mean of 4.9 days (SD 1.3, range 3 to 9). The average total output was 1923 mL (SD 865, range 530 to 4310 mL). The wound infection rate was 2.3% (2 cases of deep wound infection that required reoperation). There was one (1.1%) hematoma, and one (1.1%) sterile seroma, both requiring evacuation. No other wound complications were noted.


Use of BMP for long-segment posterior thoracolumbar fusions may be associated with significant drain output, requiring multiple days of drainage. However, when drained adequately, infections and seromas occur infrequently.





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Saulle, Dwight, Kai-Ming G Fu, Christopher I Shaffrey and Justin S Smith (2013). Multiple-day drainage when using bone morphogenic protein for long-segment thoracolumbar fusions is associated with low rates of wound complications. World neurosurgery, 80(1-2). pp. 204–207. 10.1016/j.wneu.2012.08.003 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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