The Timing of Surgery Affects Return to Work Rates in Patients With Degenerative Lumbar Stenosis in a Workers’ Compensation Setting

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Abstract

Study Design:

Retrospective Cohort Study.

Objective:

The objective of this study is to determine how time to surgery affects outcomes for degenerative lumbar stenosis (DLS) in a workers’ compensation (WC) setting.

Summary of Background Data:

WC subjects are known to be a clinically distinct population with variable outcomes following lumbar surgery. No study has examined the effect of time to surgery in this clinically distinct population.

Materials and Methods:

A total of 227 Ohio WC subjects were identified who underwent primary decompression for DLS between 1993 and 2013. We allocated patients into 2 groups: those that received operative decompression before and after 1 year of symptom onset. Our primary outcome was, if patients were able to make a stable return to work (RTW). The authors classified subjects as RTW if they returned within 2 years after surgery and remained working for >6 months.

Results:

The early cohort had a significantly higher RTW rate [50% (25/50) vs. 30% (53/117); P=0.01]. A logistic regression was performed to identify independent variables that predicted RTW status. Our regression model showed that time to surgery remained a significant negative predictor of RTW status (P=0.04; odds ratio, 0.48; 95% confidence interval, 0.23–0.91). Patients within the early surgery cohort cost on average, $37,332 less in total medical costs than those who opted for surgery after 1 year (P=0.01). Furthermore, total medical costs accrued over 3 years after index surgery was on average, $13,299 less when patients received their operation within 1 year after symptom onset (P=0.01).

Conclusions:

Overall, time to surgery had a significant impact on clinical outcomes in WC subjects receiving lumbar decompression for DLS. Patients who received their operation within 1 year had a higher RTW rate, lower medical costs, and lower costs accrued over 3 years after index surgery. The results presented can perhaps be used to guide surgical decision-making and provide predictive value for the WC population.

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