Neurosurgery 86:30–45, 2020
Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is being increasingly offered on an outpatient basis. However, the safety profile of outpatient ACDF remains poorly defined.
OBJECTIVE: To review the medical literature on the safety of outpatient ACDF.
METHODS: We systematically reviewed the literature for articles published before April 1, 2018, describing outpatient ACDF and associated complications, including incidence of reoperation, stroke, thrombolytic events, dysphagia, hematoma, and mortality. A random-effects analysis was performed comparing complications between the inpatient and outpatient groups.
RESULTS: We identified 21 articles that satisfied the selection criteria, of which 15 were comparative studies. Most of the existing studies were retrospective, with a lack of level I or II studies on this topic. We found no statistically significant difference between inpatient and outpatient ACDF in overall complications, incidence of stroke, thrombolytic events, dysphagia, and hematoma development. However, patients undergoing outpatient ACDF had lower reported reoperation rates (P < .001), mortality (P < .001), and hospitalization duration (P < .001).
CONCLUSION: Our meta-analysis indicates that there is a lack of high level of evidence studies regarding the safety of outpatient ACDF. However, the existing literature suggests that outpatient ACDF can be safe, with low complication rates comparable to inpatient ACDF in well-selected patients. Patients with advanced age and comorbidities such as obesity and significant myelopathy are likely not suitable for outpatient ACDF. Spine surgeons must carefully evaluate each patient to decide whether outpatient ACDF is a safe option. Higher quality, large prospective randomized control trials are needed to accurately demonstrate the safety profile of outpatient ACDF.