Interhospital transfer status for spinal metastasis patients in the United States is associated with more severe clinical presentations and higher rates of inpatient complications.



In patients with metastatic spinal disease (MSD), interhospital transfer can potentially impact clinical outcomes as the possible benefits of transferring a patient to a higher level of care must be weighed against the negative effects associated with potential delays in treatment. While the association of clinical outcomes and transfer status has been examined in other specialties, the relationship between transfer status, complications, and risk of mortality in patients with MSD has yet to be explored. The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of transfer status on in-hospital mortality and clinical outcomes in patients diagnosed with MSD.


The National (Nationwide) Inpatient Sample (NIS) database was retrospectively queried for adult patients diagnosed with vertebral pathological fracture and/or spinal cord compression in the setting of metastatic disease between 2012 and 2014. Demographics, baseline characteristics (e.g., metastatic spinal cord compression [MSCC] and paralysis), comorbidities, type of intervention, and relevant patient outcomes were controlled in a multivariable logistic regression model to analyze the association of transfer status with patient outcomes.


Within the 10,360 patients meeting the inclusion and exclusion criteria, higher rates of MSCC (50.2% vs 35.9%, p < 0.001) and paralysis (17.3% vs 8.4%, p < 0.001) were observed in patients transferred between hospitals compared to those directly admitted. In univariable analysis, a higher percentage of transferred patients underwent surgical intervention (p < 0.001) when compared with directly admitted patients. After controlling for significant covariates and surgical intervention, transferred patients were more likely to develop in-hospital complications (OR 1.34, 95% CI 1.18-1.52, p < 0.001), experience prolonged length of stay (OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.16-1.52, p < 0.001), and have a discharge disposition other than home (OR 1.70, 95% CI 1.46-1.98, p < 0.001), with no significant difference in inpatient mortality rates.


Patients with MSD who were transferred between hospitals demonstrated more severe clinical presentations and higher rates of inpatient complications compared to directly admitted patients, despite demonstrating no difference in in-hospital mortality rates.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

De la Garza Ramos, Rafael, Christine Park, Edwin McCray, Meghan Price, Timothy Y Wang, Tara Dalton, César Baëta, Melissa M Erickson, et al. (2021). Interhospital transfer status for spinal metastasis patients in the United States is associated with more severe clinical presentations and higher rates of inpatient complications. Neurosurgical focus, 50(5). p. E4. 10.3171/2021.2.focus201085 Retrieved from

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Melissa Maria Erickson

Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery

I am a spine surgeon who provides surgical management of cervical, thoracic  and lumbar spine conditions, including cervical myelopathy, herniated discs, deformity, stenosis, tumor and trauma.  I provide both minimally invasive procedures as well as traditional surgical techniques.


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.


Muhammad Abd-El-Barr

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery

As a Neurosurgeon with fellowship training in Spine Surgery, I have dedicated my professional life to treating patients with spine disorders. These include spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, herniated discs and spine tumors. I incorporate minimally-invasive spine (MIS) techniques whenever appropriate to minimize pain and length of stay, yet not compromise on achieving the goals of surgery, which is ultimately to get you back to the quality of life you once enjoyed. I was drawn to medicine and neurosurgery for the unique ability to incorporate the latest in technology and neuroscience to making patients better. I will treat you and your loved ones with the same kind of care I would want my loved ones to be treated with. In addition to my clinical practice, I will be working with Duke Bioengineers and Neurobiologists on important basic and translational questions surrounding spinal cord injuries (SCI), which we hope to bring to clinical relevance.


Courtney Rory Goodwin

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery

Associate Professor of Neurosurgery, Radiation Oncology, Orthopedic Surgery.
Director of Spine Oncology,
Associate Residency Program Director
Third Year Study Program Director Neurosciences, Duke University School of Medicine
Director of Spine Metastasis, Duke Center for Brain and Spine Metastasis, Department of Neurosurgery
Duke Cancer Institute, Duke University Medical Center

Unless otherwise indicated, scholarly articles published by Duke faculty members are made available here with a CC-BY-NC (Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial) license, as enabled by the Duke Open Access Policy. If you wish to use the materials in ways not already permitted under CC-BY-NC, please consult the copyright owner. Other materials are made available here through the author’s grant of a non-exclusive license to make their work openly accessible.