Specialization is generally independently associated with improved outcomes for most types of surgery. This is the first study comparing the immediate success of outpatient lumbar microdiscectomy with respect to acute complication and conversion to inpatient rate. Long term pain relief is not examined in this study.
Two separate prospective databases (one belonging to a neurosurgeon and brain tumor specialist, not specializing in spine (NS) and one belonging to four spine surgeons (SS)) were retrospectively reviewed. All acute complications as well as admission data of patients scheduled for outpatient lumbar microdiscectomy were extracted.
In total, 269 patients were in the NS group and 137 patients were in the SS group. The NS group averaged 24 cases per year while the SS group averaged 50 cases per year. Chi-square tests revealed no difference in acute complication rate [NS(6.7%), SS(7.3%)] (p>0.5) and admission rate [NS(4.1%), SS(5.8%)] (p=0.4) while the SS group had a significantly higher proportion of patients undergoing repeat microdiscectomy [NS(4.1%), SS(37.2%)] (p<0.0001). Excluding revision operations, there was no statistically significant difference in acute complication [NS(5.4%), SS(1.2%)] (p=0.09) and conversion to inpatient [NS(4.3%), SS(4.6%)] (p>0.5) rate. The combined acute complication and conversion to inpatient rate was 6.9% and 4.7% respectively.
Based on this limited study, outpatient lumbar microdiscectomy can be apparently performed safely with similar immediate complication rates by both non-spine specialized neurosurgeons and spine surgeons, even though the trend favored the latter group for both outcome measures.