Impact of frailty on complications in patients with thoracic and thoracolumbar spinal fracture

Remi A. Kessler, Rafael De la Garza Ramos, Taylor E. Purvis, A. Karim Ahmed, C. Rory Goodwin, Daniel M. Sciubba, Muhammad M. Abd-El-Barr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: It is well-documented that geriatric patients are at risk for serious injuries after fracture due to pre-existing medical conditions, physical changes of aging, and medication effects. Frailty has been demonstrated to be a predictor of morbidity and mortality in inpatient head and neck surgery, and for surgical intervention for adult spinal deformity and degenerative spine disease. However, the impact of frailty on complications following thoracolumbar/thoracic fractures are unknown and has not been previously assessed in the literature, particularly in a nationwide setting. Patients and Methods: This was a retrospective study of the prospectively-collected American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement database for the years 2007 through 2012. Patients who underwent spinal decompression (+/− fusion) or an alternative intervention, defined as vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty (VP/KP) for thoracic or thoracolumbar fracture were identified. Frailty status was determined using a modified frailty index from the Canadian Study of Health and Aging Frailty Index, with frailty defined as a score = 0.27. 30-day morbidity and mortality were compared between frail and non-frail patients in each treatment group. Results: A total of 303 patients were included in this study. Of these, 38% of patients had VP/KP and 62% underwent surgery. Within the VP/KP cohort, 26% were frail. The proportion of these patients who developed at least one complication was 3.3% versus 3.6% for non-frail patients (p = 1.0). The 30-day mortality for frail versus not frail patients in this cohort was 0% versus 2.4% (p = 1.0). Among the surgical group, 13% were frail. In contrast, the likelihood of complications was 33.3% among frail patients and 4.2% for non-frail patients (p < 0.001). Frail patients also had a 16.7% 30-day mortality rate as compared to 0.6% in the non-frail group (p = 0.001). When comparing the frail versus non-frail patients overall, frail patients had a complication rate of 16.7%, as opposed to 4.0% in non-frail patients. Conclusion: Frailty and surgical intervention are correlated with a higher 30-day complication rate in patients with thoracic and thoracolumbar fracture. This finding is an important consideration for surgical decision-making and patient counseling on treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-165
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Neurology and Neurosurgery
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Complications
  • Frailty
  • Morbidity
  • Thoracic fracture
  • Thoracolumbar fracture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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