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Neurosurg Focus. 2018 Jan;44(1):E5. doi: 10.3171/2017.10.FOCUS17563.

Preoperative depression, lumbar fusion, and opioid use: an assessment of postoperative prescription, quality, and economic outcomes.

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Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California.
Departments of 2 Neurosurgery and.
Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine.


OBJECTIVE Preoperative depression has been linked to a variety of adverse outcomes following lumbar fusion, including increased pain, disability, and 30-day readmission rates. The goal of the present study was to determine whether preoperative depression is associated with increased narcotic use following lumbar fusion. Moreover, the authors examined the association between preoperative depression and a variety of secondary quality indicator and economic outcomes, including complications, 30-day readmissions, revision surgeries, likelihood of discharge home, and 1- and 2-year costs. METHODS A retrospective analysis was conducted using a national longitudinal administrative database (MarketScan) containing diagnostic and reimbursement data on patients with a variety of private insurance providers and Medicare for the period from 2007 to 2014. Multivariable logistic and negative binomial regressions were performed to assess the relationship between preoperative depression and the primary postoperative opioid use outcomes while controlling for demographic, comorbidity, and preoperative prescription drug-use variables. Logistic and log-linear regressions were also used to evaluate the association between depression and the secondary outcomes of complications, 30-day readmissions, revisions, likelihood of discharge home, and 1- and 2-year costs. RESULTS The authors identified 60,597 patients who had undergone lumbar fusion and met the study inclusion criteria, 4985 of whom also had a preoperative diagnosis of depression and 21,905 of whom had a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis at the time of surgery. A preoperative depression diagnosis was associated with increased cumulative opioid use (β = 0.25, p < 0.001), an increased risk of chronic use (OR 1.28, 95% CI 1.17-1.40), and a decreased probability of opioid cessation (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.95-0.98) following lumbar fusion. In terms of secondary outcomes, preoperative depression was also associated with a slightly increased risk of complications (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.03-1.25), revision fusions (OR 1.15, 95% CI 1.05-1.26), and 30-day readmissions (OR 1.19, 95% CI 1.04-1.36), although it was not significantly associated with the probability of discharge to home (OR 0.92, 95% CI 0.84-1.01). Preoperative depression also resulted in increased costs at 1 (β = 0.06, p < 0.001) and 2 (β = 0.09, p < 0.001) years postoperatively. CONCLUSIONS Although these findings must be interpreted in the context of the limitations inherent to retrospective studies utilizing administrative data, they provide additional evidence for the link between a preoperative diagnosis of depression and adverse outcomes, particularly increased opioid use, following lumbar fusion.


CDC = Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; CPT = Current Procedural Terminology; MME = morphine milligram equivalent; depression; lumbar fusion; opioids


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