Lumbar Discography Is Associated With Poor Return to Work Status Following Lumbar Fusion Surgery in a Workers’ Compensation Setting


Lumbar discography (LD) is used to guide surgical decision making in patients with degenerative disc disease (DDD). Its safety and diagnostic accuracy are under contention. This study evaluates LD’s efficacy within the workers’ compensation (WC) population. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to determine the impact that undergoing LD before lumbar fusion for DDD had on return to work (RTW) rates among 1407 WC subjects. Discography was negatively associated with RTW status (p D .042; OR 0.76); 22.2% (142/641) of LD subjects met the RTW criteria, compared with 29.6% (227/766) of controls. Additional preoperative risk factors included psychological comorbidity (p < .001; OR 0.34), age greater than 50 (p < .005; OR 0.64), male gender (p < .037; OR 0.75), chronic opioid use (p < .001; OR 0.53), legal representation (p < .034; OR 0.72), and fusion technique (p < .043). LD subjects used postoperative narcotics for an average of 123 additional days (p < .001). This raises concerns regarding the utility of discography in the WC population. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 27(1):25–32, 2018) Key words: degenerative disk disease, low back pain, lumbar discography, lumbar fusion, return to work, workers' compensation

Joshua T. Anderson, BS; Jeffrey A. O’Donnell, BS; Arnold R. Haas, BS, BA; Rick Percy, PhD; Stephen T. Woods, MD; Uri M. Ahn, MD; and Nicholas U. Ahn, MD