Retrospective, propensity score-matched cohort study examining timing of fracture fixation for traumatic thoracolumbar fractures

Maxwell Boakye, Robert T. Arrigo, Melanie G.Hayden Gephart, Corinna C. Zygourakis, Shivanand Lad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The timing of surgery in patients with traumatic thoracic/thoracolumbar fractures, with or without spinal cord injury, remains controversial. The objective of this study was to determine the importance of the timing of surgery for complications and resource utilization following fixation of traumatic thoracic/thoracolumbar fractures. In this retrospective cohort study, the 2003-2008 California Inpatient Databases were searched for patients receiving traumatic thoracic/thoracolumbar fracture fixation. Patients were classified as having early (<72 h) or late (>72 h) surgery. Propensity score modeling produced a matched cohort balanced on age, comorbidity, trauma severity, and other factors. Complications, mortality, length of stay, and hospital charges were assessed. Multivariate logistic regression was used to determine the impact of delayed surgery on in-hospital complications after balancing and controlling for other important factors. Early surgery (<72 h) for traumatic thoracic/thoracolumbar fractures was associated with a significantly lower overall complication rate (including cardiac, thromboembolic, and respiratory complications), and decreased hospital stay. In-hospital charges were significantly lower ($38,120 difference) in the early surgery group. Multivariate analysis identified time to surgery as the strongest predictor of in-hospital complications, although age, medical comorbidities, and injury severity score were also independently associated with increased complications. We reinforce the beneficial impact of early spinal surgery (prior to 72 h) in traumatic thoracic/thoracolumbar fractures to reduce in-hospital complications, hospital stay, and resource utilization. These results provide further support to the emerging literature and professional consensus regarding the importance of early thoracic/thoracolumbar spine stabilization of traumatic fractures to improve patient outcomes and limit hospitalization costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2220-2225
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of neurotrauma
Issue number12
StatePublished - Aug 10 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • fracture
  • spine
  • thoracolumbar
  • timing of surgery
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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