Risk Factors for Medical and Surgical Complications After 1–2-Level Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion Procedures

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Postoperative complications after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) have a significant impact on clinical outcomes and health care resource use. Identifying predictive factors for complications after ACDF may allow for the modification of care protocols to mitigate complication risk. The purpose of this study is to determine risk factors for the incidence of medical and surgical complications up to 2 years postoperatively after ACDF procedures.


A prospectively maintained surgical registry of patients who underwent primary, 1–2-level ACDF was retrospectively reviewed. The incidence of medical and surgical complications up to 2 years postoperatively was determined. Patients were classified according to demographic, comorbidity, and procedural characteristics. Bivariate Poisson regression with robust error variance was used to determine if an association existed between the incidence of medical or surgical complications and patient characteristics. A final multivariate model including all patient and procedural characteristics as controls was created using backwards, stepwise regression until only those variables with P < .05 remained.


A total of 310 patients were included. Upon bivariate analysis, age >50 years was identified as a risk factor for medical complications after ACDF procedures. Additionally, bivariate analysis identified ageless Charlson comorbidity index ≥2, operative duration >60 minutes, and 2-level procedures as risk factors for surgical complications after ACDF. Upon multivariate analysis, age >50 years was identified as an independent risk factor for medical complications (relative risk [RR] = 3.6, P = .005), while operative time >60 minutes was identified as an independent risk factor for surgical complications after ACDF (RR = 4.5, P = .017).


The results of this study demonstrate that older age and longer operative time were independent risk factors for medical and surgical complications, respectively, following ACDF. Patients with these risk factors should be counseled regarding their increased risk of postoperative complications and should undergo more vigilant monitoring to aid in complication avoidance.

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Clinical Relevance

Surgeons should consider the elevated risk of postoperative complications in >50 years old patients and >60 min procedures.