Postoperative Fever Evaluation Following Lumbar Fusion Procedures

Document Type


Publication Date




This study aimed to determine the incidence of postoperative fever, the workup conducted for postoperative fever, the rate of subsequent fever-related diagnoses or complications, and the risk factors associated with fever following lumbar fusion.


A retrospective review of patients undergoing lumbar fusion was performed. For patients in whom fever (≥38.6°C) was documented, charts were reviewed for any fever workup or diagnosis. Multivariate regression was used to identify independent risk factors for the development of postoperative fever.


A total of 868 patients met the inclusion criteria, of whom 105 exhibited at least 1 episode of fever during hospitalization. The first documentation of fever occurred during the first 24 hours in 43.8% of cases, during postoperative hours 24–48 in 53.3%, and later than 48 hours postoperatively in 2.9%. At least 1 component of a fever workup was conducted in 47 of the 105 patients who had fever, resulting in fever-associated diagnoses in 4 patients prior to discharge. Three patients who had fever during the inpatient stay developed complications after discharge. On multivariate analysis, operations longer than 150 minutes (relative risk [RR], 1.66; p=0.015) and narcotic consumption greater than 85 oral morphine equivalents on postoperative day 0 (RR, 1.53; p=0.038) were independently associated with an increased risk of developing postoperative fever.


The results of this study suggest that inpatient fever occurred in roughly 1 in 8 patients following lumbar fusion surgery. In most cases where a fever workup was performed, no cause of fever was detected. Longer operative time and increased early postoperative narcotic use may increase the risk of developing postoperative fever.