The Association Between Adjuvant Pain Medication Use and Outcomes Following Pediatric Spinal Fusion

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Study Design.

A comparative effectiveness database study.


The aim of this study was to describe variation in use of adjuvant therapies for managing postoperative pain in in patients undergoing posterior spinal fusion (PSF) for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) and determine association between use of these therapies and patient outcomes.

Summary of Background Data.

Variation in postoperative pain management for children undergoing PSF for AIS likely impacts outcomes. Minimal evidence exists to support strategies that most effectively minimize prolonged intravenous (IV) opioids and hospitalizations.


We included patients aged 10 to 18 years discharged from one of 38 freestanding children's hospitals participating in a national database from December 1, 2012, to January 5, 2015, with ICD9 codes indicating scoliosis and PSF procedure. Use of ketorolac, gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) analogues (GABAa), and benzodiazepines was compared across hospitals. Hierarchical logistic regression adjusting for confounders and accounting for clustering of patients within hospitals was used to estimate association between these therapies and odds of prolonged duration of IV opioids, prolonged length of stay (LOS), and early readmissions.


Across hospitals, use of ketorolac and GABAa was highly variable and increased over time among 7349 subjects. Use of ketorolac was independently associated with significantly lower odds of prolonged LOS [odds ratio (OR) 0.75, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 0.64–0.89] and prolonged duration of IV opioid (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.73–0.98). GABAa use was significantly associated with decreased odds of prolonged IV opioid use (OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.53–0.75). Readmission rate at 30 days was 1.6% and most strongly associated with prolonged LOS.


In this national cohort of children with AIS undergoing PSF, patients who received postoperative ketorolac or GABAa were less likely to have prolonged IV opioid exposure. Given the rapid increase in use of adjuvant therapies without strong evidence, resources should be devoted to multicenter trials in order to optimize effectiveness and outcomes.


Level of Evidence: 3

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