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A new study from the Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) quantifies the 30-day and 90-day reoperation and readmission rates for workers’ compensation patients undergoing lumbar spine surgeries, and compares these rates with those for non-workers’ compensation patients reported by other studies.

The study, Reoperation & Readmission Rates for Workers’ Compensation Patients Undergoing Lumbar Surgery, also discusses the major types of reoperations and the main reasons for readmissions, examines medical payments per claim, and describes interstate variation in the prevalence of reoperation and readmission.

The following is a sample of the study’s major findings:

Seven and eight percent of workers’ compensation patients undergoing lumbar spine surgery had a reoperation and/or readmission within 30 and 90 days after their operation, respectively. These percentages are higher than reported in the literature for non-workers’ compensation patients.
Seventeen percent of patients were readmitted within 30 days of a fusion, largely for nonoperative reasons. This readmission rate was two to seven times higher than the rate for non-workers’ compensation patients reported in other studies. This was the primary driver of the higher 30-day all-cause readmission rate for discectomy/decompression and fusion groups combined in workers’ compensation patients compared with other patients.
— There was considerable variation in the prevalence of reoperation and readmission across the study states. The percentages of lumbar spine surgery cases with reoperations and/or readmissions within two years ranged from about 1 in 10 workers’ compensation patients in North Carolina and Minnesota to more than 1 in 5 in California.

The study analyzes workers with low back pain who underwent either lumbar discectomy/decompression or lumbar fusion surgery in 18 states for injuries that arose between October 1, 2015, and September 30, 2016, and follows the postoperative experience for each case through March 31, 2018.

The 18 study states, which represent 61 percent of all workers’ compensation benefits paid nationwide, are Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

“Post-surgery readmissions and reoperations are the primary quality indicators being used by commercial, governmental, and a limited number of workers’ compensation payors in their value-based purchasing programs,” said John Ruser, President and CEO of WCRI. “The study can help policymakers and other stakeholders shed light on the areas where quality improvement is most needed. It can also prove to be useful to patients as they consider treatment options.”

For more information about this study or to download a copy, visit