BACKGROUND: Preoperative pulmonary function tests are routinely obtained in children with scoliosis undergoing posterior spinal fusion despite unclear benefits as a perioperative risk assessment tool and frequent inability of patients to provide acceptable results. The goal of this study was to determine whether preoperative pulmonary function test results are associated with the need for postoperative intubation or intensive care unit admission after posterior spinal fusion.
METHODS: The electronic medical records of patients who underwent posterior spinal fusion at a pediatric tertiary hospital between June 2012 and August 2017 were reviewed. Pulmonary function tests were consistently ordered for all patients, unless the patient was deemed unable to perform the test due to cognitive disability. Cases were categorized as primary or secondary scoliosis.
Demographic data, preoperative bilevel positive airway pressure use, Cobb angle, intraoperative allogeneic blood transfusion, and ability to produce acceptable pulmonary function test results were collected for each patient. In patients with satisfactory pulmonary function test results, forced vital capacity and maximum inspiratory pressure were collected. Primary outcomes for analysis were postoperative intubation and intensive care unit admission. Univariable logistic regression models were used to assess the association between each variable of interest and the primary outcomes.
RESULTS: The study sample included 433 patients, 288 with primary scoliosis and 145 with secondary scoliosis. Among patients with primary scoliosis, 90% were able to produce acceptable pulmonary function test results, zero remained intubated postoperatively, and 6 were admitted to the intensive care unit. Among patients with secondary scoliosis, 44% could not attempt pulmonary function tests. Among those who did attempt the test, 30% were unable to produce meaningful results. Forced vital capacity and maximum inspiratory pressure were not found to be associated with postoperative intubation or intensive care unit admission. Weight, Cobb angle, intraoperative blood transfusion, American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status classification, and preoperative bilevel positive airway pressure use were associated with patient outcomes. Among 357 total patients who attempted pulmonary function tests, 37 had high-risk results. Only 1 of these 37 patients remained intubated postoperatively.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients undergoing posterior spinal fusion, especially those with secondary scoliosis, are frequently unable to adequately perform pulmonary function tests. Among patients with interpretable pulmonary function tests, there was no association between results and postoperative intubation or intensive care unit admission. Routine pulmonary function testing for all patients with scoliosis may not be indicated for purposes of risk assessment before posterior spinal fusion. Clinicians should consider a targeted approach and limit pulmonary function tests to patients for whom results may guide preoperative optimization as this may improve outcomes and reduce inefficiencies and costs.