Rates of new neurological deficit associated with spine surgery based on 108,419 procedures: a report of the scoliosis research society morbidity and mortality committee.


Study design

Retrospective review of a prospectively collected, multicenter database.


To assess rates of new neurologic deficit (NND) associated with spine surgery.

Summary of background data

NND is a potential complication of spine surgery, but previously reported rates are often limited by small sample size and single-surgeon experiences.


The Scoliosis Research Society morbidity and mortality database was queried for spinal surgery cases complicated by NND from 2004 to 2007, including nerve root deficit (NRD), cauda equina deficit (CED), and spinal cord deficit (SCD). Use of neuromonitoring was assessed. Recovery was stratified as complete, partial, or none. Rates of NND were stratified based on diagnosis, age (pediatric < 21; adult ≥ 21), and surgical parameters.


Of the 108,419 cases reported, NND was documented for 1064 (1.0%), including 662 NRDs, 74 CEDs, and 293 SCDs (deficit not specified for 35 cases). Rates of NND were calculated on the basis of diagnosis. Revision cases had a 41% higher rate of NND (1.25%) compared with primary cases (0.89%; P < 0.001). Pediatric cases had a 59% higher rate of NND (1.32%) compared with adult cases (0.83%; P < 0.001). The rate of NND for cases with implants was more than twice that for cases without implants (1.15% vs. 0.52%, P < 0.001). Neuromonitoring was used for 65% of cases, and for cases with new NRD, CED, and SCD, changes in neuromonitoring were reported in 11%, 8%, and 40%, respectively. The respective percentages of no recovery, partial, and complete recovery for NRD were 4.7%, 46.8%, and 47.1%, respectively; for CED were 9.6%, 45.2%, and 45.2%, respectively; and for SCD were 10.6%, 43%, and 45.7%, respectively.


Our data demonstrate that, even among skilled spinal deformity surgeons, new neurologic deficits are inherent potential complications of spine surgery. These data provide general benchmark rates for NND with spine surgery as a basis for patient counseling and for ongoing efforts to improve safety of care.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Hamilton, D Kojo, Justin S Smith, Charles A Sansur, Steven D Glassman, Christopher P Ames, Sigurd H Berven, David W Polly, Joseph H Perra, et al. (2011). Rates of new neurological deficit associated with spine surgery based on 108,419 procedures: a report of the scoliosis research society morbidity and mortality committee. Spine, 36(15). pp. 1218–1228. 10.1097/brs.0b013e3181ec5fd9 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/29237.

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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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