Does Routine Subspecialty Consultation Before High-Risk Pediatric Spine Surgery Decrease the Incidence of Complications?

Timothy G. Visser, Erik B. Lehman, Douglas G. Armstrong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Children with neuromuscular disorders and syndromic scoliosis who require operative treatment for scoliosis are at increased risk for postoperative complications. Complications may include surgical site infection and pulmonary system problems including respiratory failure, gastrointestinal system disorders, and others. The purpose of our study was to determine the effect of a standardized perioperative pathway specifically designed for management of high-risk pediatric patients undergoing surgery for scoliosis. Methods: The High-Risk Protocol (HRP) at our institution is a multidisciplinary process with subspecialty consultations before scoliosis surgery. This was a retrospective chart and radiographic review at a single institution. Inclusion criteria were high-risk subjects, age 8 to 18 years old, who underwent surgery between January, 2009 and April, 2009 with a minimum 2-year follow-up. Diagnoses included neuromuscular scoliosis or Syndromic scoliosis. Results: Seventy one subjects were analyzed. The mean age was 13 (±2 SD) years. Follow-up was 63 (±24 SD) months. The study group consisted of 35 subjects who had fully completed the HRP and the control group consisted of 36 subjects who did not. Nine of the 35 (26%) subjects in the HRP had surgery delayed while interventions were performed. Compared with controls, the study group had larger preoperative and postoperative curve magnitudes: 90 versus 73 degrees (P=0.002) and 35 versus 22 degrees (P=0.001). Pulmonary disease was more common in the HRP, 60 versus 31% (P=0.013). The overall incidence of complications in the study group was 29% (10 of 35 subjects) and for controls 28% (10 of 36). There were no differences between groups for types of complications or Clavien-Dindo grades. Three subjects in the study group and 1 in the controls developed surgical site infection. Eleven subjects required unplanned reoperations during the study period. Conclusions: The findings of our study suggest a structured pathway requiring routine evaluations by pediatric subspecialists may not reduce complications for all high-risk pediatric spine patients. Selective use of consultants may be more appropriate. Level of Evidence: Level III, Retrospective Cohort study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-576
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Pediatric Orthopaedics
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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