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Population-based analysis of administrative discharge records from California, Florida, and New York inpatient, ambulatory, and emergency department settings between 2005 and 2011, utilizing Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data.We aimed to compare, and characterize rates of reoperation and readmission among patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis treated with surgical decompression alone versus fusion.Degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis with stenosis can be treated by decompression with or without fusion. Fusion has traditionally been preferred. We hypothesized that rates of reoperation after decompression alone would be higher than after fusion.We undertook a population-based analysis of administrative discharge records from California, Florida, and New York inpatient, ambulatory, and emergency department settings between 2005 and 2011, with Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project data. We identified all patients who had degenerative spondylolisthesis who were treated with decompression alone or with fusion and compared their rates of reoperation at 1, 3, and 5 years from the index operation. We used descriptive statistics and a hierarchical logistic regression model to generate risk-adjusted odds of all-cause readmissions.Our study consisted of 75,024 patients with spondylolisthesis; 6712 (8.95%) of them underwent decompression alone and 68,312 (91.05%) of them underwent fusion. Rates of reoperation were higher for decompression versus fusion at 1 year; 6.87% versus 5.53% (P≤0.001), but at 3 years; 13.86% versus 12.91% (P=0.18) and 5 years; 16.9% versus 17.7% (P=0.398) years rates of reoperation were not statistically different. Patients treated with decompression alone that had a second operation tended to have the operation sooner 512.6 versus 567.4 days (P=0.008).Our study suggests that treatment of degenerative spondylolisthesis with fusion or decompression alone results in similar rates of reoperation at 5 years. This medium term data indicate that decompression alone may be a viable treatment for some patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis.