Multilevel Lumbar Fusion Is a Risk Factor for Lower Return to Work Rates Among Workers’ Compensation Subjects With Degenerative Disc Disease


Discogenic fusion is associated with variable outcomes, especially if multiple levels are fused. This study sought to determine the impact of fused levels on return to work (RTW) status in a workers’ compensation (WC) setting. Nine hundred thirty-seven subjects were selected for study. The primary
outcome was the ability to RTW within 2 years following fusion and to sustain this level for greater than 6 months. Many secondary outcomes were collected. A multivariate logistic regression model was used to determine the impact of multilevel fusion on RTW status. Of the multilevel fusion group, 21.7% met the RTW criteria versus 28.1% of the single-level fusion group (p < .028). Multilevel fusion was a negative predictor of RTW status (p < .041; OR 0.71). Additional negative predictors included prolonged time out of work, male gender, chronic opioid analgesia, and legal representation. Multilevel fusion led to poor clinical outcomes while overall RTW rates were low, which suggests a limited role of discogenic fusion within the WC setting. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 27(3):209–218, 2018) Key words: clinical outcomes, discogenic fusion, lumbar spine, multilevel surgery, return to work, workers’ compensation

Joshua T. Anderson, MD; Erik Y. Tye, BA; Arnold R. Haas, BS, BA; Rick Percy, PhD; Stephen T. Woods, MD; Uri M. Ahn, MD; and Nicholas U. Ahn, MD