Are Guidelines Important? Results of a Prospective Quality Improvement Lumbar Fusion Project


United States (U.S.) healthcare is a volume-based inefficient delivery system. Value requires the consideration of quality, which is lacking in most healthcare disciplines.


To assess whether patients who met specific evidence-based medicine (EBM)-based criteria preoperatively for lumbar fusion would achieve higher rates of achieving the minimal clinical important difference (MCID) than those who did not meet the EBM indications.


All elective lumbar fusion cases, March 2018 to August 2019, were prospectively evaluated and categorized based on EBM guidelines for surgical indications. The MCID was defined as a reduction of ≥5 points in Oswestry Disability Index (ODI). Multiple logistic regression identified multivariable-adjusted odds ratio of EBM concordance.


A total of 325 lumbar fusion patients were entered with 6-mo follow-up data available for 309 patients (95%). The median preoperative ODI score was 24.4 with median 6-mo improvement of 7.0 points (P < .0001). Based on ODI scores, 79.6% (246/309) improved, 3.8% (12/309) had no change, and 16% (51/309) worsened. A total of 191 patients had ODI improvement reaching the MCID. 93.2% (288/309) cases were EBM concordant, while 6.7% (21/309) were not.In multivariate analysis, EBM concordance (P = .0338), lower preoperative ODI (P < .001), lower ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) (P = .0056), and primary surgeries (P = .0004) were significantly associated with improved functional outcome. EBM concordance conferred a 3.04 (95% CI 1.10-8.40) times greater odds of achieving MCID in ODI at 6 mo (P = .0322), adjusting for other factors.


This analysis provides validation of EBM guideline criteria to establish optimal patient outcomes. The EBM concordant patients had a greater than 3 times improved outcome compared to those not meeting EBM fusion criteria.


Evidence-based medicine criteria; Lumbar fusion; Oswestry Disability Index; Quality improvement.

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