Treatment of Recurrent Lumbar Disc Herniation With or Without Fusion in Workers’ Compensation Subjects

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Study Design.Retrospective cohort study.Objective.To determine outcomes after reoperation discectomy with or without fusion surgery for recurrent lumbar disc herniation (RLDH) in the workers’ compensation (WC) population.Summary of Background Data.RLDH is estimated to occur in 7% to 24% of patients after discectomy. There are two main surgical options after reherniation: a revision discectomy (RD), or an RD combined with fusion (RDF).Methods.A total of 10,592 patients received lost-work compensation from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation for a lumbar disc herniation between 2005 and 2012. Patients with lumbar spine comorbidities, a smoking history, or multilevel surgery were excluded. One hundred two patients had RD alone for RLDH and 196 had RDF procedures. The primary outcome was whether subjects returned to work (RTW).Results.A total of 298 WC patients met our study criteria, including 230 (77.2%) men and 68 (22.8%) women with an average age of 39.4 years (range 19–66). The RDF group had lower rates of RTW than the RD group (27.0% vs 40.2%; P = 0.03). Multivariate regression analysis showed that reoperation with discectomy and fusion (P = 0.04; odds ratio [OR] = 0.56), psychiatric illness (P < 0.01; OR = 0.19), and opioid analgesic use within 1 month of reoperation (P < 0.01; OR = 0.44) were independent negative predictors of RTW. RDF patients were supplied with opioids for 252.3 days longer (P < 0.01) and incurred $34,914 (31.8%) higher medical costs (P < 0.01) than the RD alone group.Conclusion.We analyzed outcomes after operative management of RLDH in the WC population. WC patients receiving RDF had lower RTW rates, higher costs, and a longer duration of postoperative opioid use than those receiving RD alone. This information allows for informed patient management decisions and suggests that fusion should be reserved for patients with clear indications for its use. We are unable to conclude what treatment method is best, but rather we provide a baseline for future studies.Level of Evidence: 3

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