Background: With a reported rate of 0.7-20%, postoperative spinal implant infection (PSII) is one of the most common complications after spine surgery. While in arthroplasty both haematoma formation and perioperative blood loss have been identified as risk factors for developing periprosthetic joint infections and preoperative anaemia has been associated with increased complication rates, literature on the aetiology of PSII remains limited.
Methods: We performed a matched-pair analysis of perioperative haemoglobin (Hb) and haematocrit (Hct) levels in aseptic and septic spine revision surgeries. 317 patients were included, 94 of which were classified as septic according to previously defined criteria. Patients were matched according to age, body mass index, diabetes, American Society of Anesthesiologists score and smoking habits. Descriptive summaries for septic and aseptic groups were analysed using Pearson chi-squared for categorical or Student t test for continuous variables.
Results: Fifty patients were matched and did not differ significantly in their reason for revision, mean length of hospital stay, blood transfusion, operating time, or number of levels operated on. While there was no significant difference in preoperative Hb or Hct levels, the mean difference between pre- and postoperative Hb was higher in the septic group (3.45 +/- 1.25 vs. 2.82 +/- 1.48 g/dL, p = 0.034).
Conclusions: We therefore show that the intraoperative Hb-trend is a predictor for the development of PSII independent of the amount of blood transfusions, operation time, number of spinal levels operated on and hospital length of stay, which is why strategies to reduce intraoperative blood loss in spine surgery need to be further studied.