Social risk factors predicting outcomes of cervical myelopathy surgery.

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Rethorn, Zachary D
Cook, Chad E
Park, Christine
Somers, Tamara
Mummaneni, Praveen V
Chan, Andrew K
Pennicooke, Brenton H
Bisson, Erica F
Asher, Anthony L
Buchholz, Avery L

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Combinations of certain social risk factors of race, sex, education, socioeconomic status (SES), insurance, education, employment, and one's housing situation have been associated with poorer pain and disability outcomes after lumbar spine surgery. To date, an exploration of such factors in patients with cervical spine surgery has not been conducted. The objective of the current work was to 1) define the social risk phenotypes of individuals who have undergone cervical spine surgery for myelopathy and 2) analyze their predictive capacity toward disability, pain, quality of life, and patient satisfaction-based outcomes.


The Cervical Myelopathy Quality Outcomes Database was queried for the period from January 2016 to December 2018. Race/ethnicity, educational attainment, SES, insurance payer, and employment status were modeled into unique social phenotypes using latent class analyses. Proportions of social groups were analyzed for demonstrating a minimal clinically important difference (MCID) of 30% from baseline for disability, neck and arm pain, quality of life, and patient satisfaction at the 3-month and 1-year follow-ups.


A total of 730 individuals who had undergone cervical myelopathy surgery were included in the final cohort. Latent class analysis identified 2 subgroups: 1) high risk (non-White race and ethnicity, lower educational attainment, not working, poor insurance, and predominantly lower SES), n = 268, 36.7% (class 1); and 2) low risk (White, employed with good insurance, and higher education and SES), n = 462, 63.3% (class 2). For both 3-month and 1-year outcomes, the high-risk group (class 1) had decreased odds (all p < 0.05) of attaining an MCID score in disability, neck/arm pain, and health-related quality of life. Being in the low-risk group (class 2) resulted in an increased odds of attaining an MCID score in disability, neck/arm pain, and health-related quality of life. Neither group had increased or decreased odds of being satisfied with surgery.


Although 2 groups underwent similar surgical approaches, the social phenotype involving non-White race/ethnicity, poor insurance, lower SES, and poor employment did not meet MCIDs for a variety of outcome measures. This finding should prompt surgeons to proactively incorporate socially conscience care pathways within healthcare systems, as well as to optimize community-based resources to improve outcomes and personalize care for populations at social risk.





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Rethorn, Zachary D, Chad E Cook, Christine Park, Tamara Somers, Praveen V Mummaneni, Andrew K Chan, Brenton H Pennicooke, Erica F Bisson, et al. (2022). Social risk factors predicting outcomes of cervical myelopathy surgery. Journal of neurosurgery. Spine, 37(1). pp. 1–8. 10.3171/2021.12.spine21874 Retrieved from

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Zachary D. Rethorn

Instructor, Medical Center in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Dr. Zachary D. Rethorn is a board-certified orthopedic physical therapist and certified health coach with clinical and research expertise in musculoskeletal pain conditions, physical activity, and health promotion. He earned his undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Belmont University followed by his DPT degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Dr. Rethorn completed a residency in orthopedic physical therapy through Benchmark Rehab Institute, a faculty development residency through Duke University, and a PhD in health promotion and wellness at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions. Dr. Rethorn is a postdoctoral fellow at the Durham VA Health Care System Center for Innovation to ADAPT where his research focuses on improving access, equity, and outcomes for musculoskeletal conditions through attending to behavioral and social determinants of health. He has presented at national and international conferences on topics related to musculoskeletal conditions, health equity, and health promotion. 


Chad E. Cook

Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery

Dr. Cook is a clinical researcher, physical therapist, and profession advocate with a long-term history of clinical care excellence and service. His passions include refining and improving the patient examination process and validating tools used in day-to-day physical therapist practice. Dr. Cook has authored or co-authored 3 textbooks, has published over 315 peer reviewed manuscripts and lectures internationally on orthopedic examination and treatment.


Tamara J. Somers

Associate Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

Tamara J. Somers, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist and Faculty Member in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Somers conducts research developing, testing, and implementing behavioral interventions for pain and other symptoms in patients with chronic disease (e.g., cancer, arthritis). She is particularly interested in developing behavioral interventions that are personalized to the needs of individual patients and using innovative delivery methods to deliver the interventions. Grant awards from the NIH, American Cancer Society, and other funding agencies support her research. Dr. Somers also co-directs a clinical psychology training program at the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI) that trains graduate students, clinical psychology interns, and post-doctoral fellows in psychosocial and behavioral symptom management interventions. 


Khoi Duc Than

Professor of Neurosurgery

I chose to pursue neurosurgery as a career because of my fascination with the human nervous system. In medical school, I developed a keen interest in the diseases that afflict the brain and spine and gravitated towards the only field where I could help treat these diseases with my own hands. I focus on disorders of the spine where my first goal is to help patients avoid surgery if at all possible. If surgery is needed, I treat patients using the most advanced minimally invasive techniques available in order to minimize pain, blood loss, and hospital stay, while maximizing recovery, neurologic function, and quality of life. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends. I am an avid sports fan and love to eat. I try to stay physically fit by going to the gym and playing ice hockey.


Oren N Gottfried

Professor of Neurosurgery

I specialize in the surgical management of all complex cervical, thoracic, lumbar, or sacral spinal diseases by using minimally invasive as well as standard approaches for arthritis or degenerative disease, deformity, tumors, and trauma. I have a special interest in the treatment of thoracolumbar deformities, occipital-cervical problems, and in helping patients with complex spinal issues from previously unsuccessful surgery or recurrent disease.I listen to my patients to understand their symptoms and experiences so I can provide them with the information and education they need to manage their disease. I make sure my patients understand their treatment options, and what will work best for their individual condition. I treat all my patients with care and concern – just as I would treat my family. I am available to address my patients' concerns before and after surgery.  I aim to improve surgical outcomes for my patients and care of all spine patients with active research evaluating clinical and radiological results after spine surgery with multiple prospective databases. I am particularly interested in prevention of spinal deformity, infections, complications, and recurrent spinal disease. Also, I study whether patient specific variables including pelvic/sacral anatomy and sagittal spinal balance predict complications from spine surgery.

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