Complications associated with surgical treatment of traumatic spinal fractures: a review of the scoliosis research society morbidity and mortality database.



Traumatic spinal fracture is a common indication for surgery, with an associated high incidence of perioperative complications. The literature provides a wide range in the incidence of complications. We seek to assess the perioperative morbidity and mortality of surgery for traumatic spinal fractures and to identify predictors of their occurrence.


We performed a retrospective analysis of all traumatic spinal fracture cases submitted by members of the Scoliosis Research Society from 2004 to 2007.


A total of 108,478 cases were submitted from 2004 through 2007, with 6,706 (6.2%) performed for treatment of traumatic fracture. Twenty-two percent of patients had preoperative neurological deficits. Intraoperative neuromonitoring was used in 58% of cases. The overall incidence of complications was 6.9%. The perioperative mortality was 0.5%. There were 59 (0.9%) new postoperative neurological deficits. Multivariate analysis demonstrated preoperative neurological deficit (P = .001; odds ratio [OR] 1.449, 95% confidence interval [CI] [1.156 to 1.817]) and fusion (P =.001; OR 1.12, 95% CI [1.072 to 1.168]) as predictors of complications and use of intraoperative neuromonitoring (P = .016; OR 1.949, 95% CI [1.13 to 3.361]), and preoperative neurological deficit (P < .001; OR 2.964, 95% CI [1.667 to 5.271]) as predictors of new postoperative neurological deficits (P < .001).


Overall, surgery for the treatment of spinal fractures was performed with relatively low incidences of perioperative complications (6.9%) and mortality (0.5%). These data may prove useful for patient counseling and ongoing efforts to improve the safety of operative care for patients with spinal fracture.





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Publication Info

Williams, Brian J, Justin S Smith, Dwight Saulle, Christopher P Ames, Lawrence G Lenke, Paul A Broadstone, Alexander R Vaccaro, David W Polly, et al. (2014). Complications associated with surgical treatment of traumatic spinal fractures: a review of the scoliosis research society morbidity and mortality database. World neurosurgery, 81(5-6). pp. 818–824. 10.1016/j.wneu.2013.02.013 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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