Mark L Prasarn, Mary B Horodyski, Caleb Behrend, John Wright, Glenn R Rechtine

Surgical Neurology International 2012 3(6):366-369

Background: When initiating treatment for patients with spinal disorders, we examined the impact of smoking, workers compensation, and litigation on disability and pain scores. Methods: With Institutional Review Board approval, the medical records of 13,704 consecutive patients with spinal disorders treated at two university spine centers were reviewed. Particular attention was focused on the pretreatment impact of three variables: smoking, workers compensation, and litigation. All patients completed a questionnaire that included a modified Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), a visual analog pain scale (VAS) and a history of smoking, workers compensation, and/or litigation issues. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) with Bonferroni (when appropriate) was used to analyze the data. Results: ODI scores significantly correlated with a smoking history: Current Smoker > Previous Smoker > Never Smoked (44.22 > 38.11 > 36.02, respectively). Pain scores and ODI scores had a direct correlation to workers compensation and litigation status. Workers compensation, litigation and smoking combined created even higher scores. There was no significant difference between previous smokers and nonsmokers. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that a history of smoking, workers compensation, and/or litigation, considered alone or worse, combined, negatively impacted outcomes for patients seeking treatment at our spine centers. For optimal outcomes in spine patients, cessation of smoking and treatment of attendant psychological and social factors prove critical.