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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1996 Nov 15;21(22):2676-82.

Perioperative nutrition and postoperative complications in patients undergoing spinal surgery.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, New York, USA.



The authors undertook a three-part study to better understand the impact of perioperative nutritional status on postoperative complications in patients undergoing spinal surgery. In preliminary Parts I and II, the authors targeted two groups of patients who are particularly nutritionally challenged. In Part III, they studied a large group of consecutive patients undergoing routine lumbar spinal fusion.


To determine whether preoperative nutritional status was a significant predictor of postoperative complications in patients undergoing elective lumbar spinal fusion.


In Part I, 27 patients treated surgically for vertebral osteomyelitis were divided into two groups based on their preoperative nutritional status. Twenty-four of the 26 postoperative complications were in the malnourished group (P < 0.001). In Part II, 15 (75%) of 20 patients treated surgically for spinal cord injury were found to become malnourished in the postoperative period. Seventeen complications were noted, all in the malnourished group (P = 0.001).


One hundred fourteen consecutive patients undergoing selective lumbar decompression and fusion were identified and their records reviewed. In addition to preoperative nutritional status, data gathered included age, sex, height, weight, past medical history, steroid use, alcohol use, tobacco use, type of bone graft (allograft vs. autograft), history of previous lumbar surgery, number of levels fused, and use of spinal instrumentation.


Eleven of 13 postoperative infectious complications (10 deep wound infections) were noted in the malnourished group (P < 0.001). By stepwise logistic regression analysis, preoperative nutritional status was an extremely significant independent predictor of postoperative complications in patients undergoing elective lumbar spinal fusion (P = 0.0018).


The prevalence data in our study population suggest that a large number (25%) of patients undergoing elective lumbar spine surgery are nourished inadequately at surgery. This number is higher (42%) in older patients. The authors recommend that close attention be paid to the perioperative nutritional status of patients undergoing lumbar spinal surgery. Patients with suboptimal nutritional parameters should be supplemented and replenished before elective surgery.

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