Are patient outcomes affected by the presence of a fellow or resident in lumbar decompression surgery?

Srikanth N. Divi, Dhruv K.C. Goyal*, Matthew S. Galetta, Ryan Guzek, Ian David Kaye, Mark F. Kurd, Barrett I. Woods, Kristen E. Radcliff, Jeffrey A. Rihn, David Greg Anderson, Alan S. Hilibrand, Christopher K. Kepler, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Gregory D. Schroeder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Study Design. Retrospective cohort study. Objective. The aim of this study was to determine whether the presence of a fellow or resident (F/R) compared to a physician assistant (PA) affected surgical variables or short-term patient outcomes. Summary of Background Data. Although orthopedic spine fellows and residents must participate in minimum number of decompression surgeries to gain competency, the impact of trainee presence on patient outcomes has not been assessed. Methods. One hundred and seventy-one patients that underwent a one- to three-level lumbar spine decompression procedure at a high-volume academic center were retrospectively identified. Operative reports from all cases were examined and patients were placed into one of two groups based on whether the first assist was a F/R or a PA. Univariate analysis was used to compare differences in total surgery duration, 30-day and 90- day readmissions, infection and revision rates, patient-reported outcome measures (Short Form-12 Physical Component Score and Mental Component Score, Oswestry Disability Index, Visual Analog Scale [VAS] Back, VAS Leg) between groups. Multiple linear regression was used to assess change in each patient reported outcome and multiple binary logistic regression was used to determine significant predictors of revision, infection, and 30- or 90-day readmission. Results. Seventy-eight patients were included in the F/R group compared to 93 patients in the PA group. There were no differences between groups for total surgery time, 30-day or 90- day readmissions, infection, or revision rates. Using univariate analysis, there were no differences between the two groups preor postoperatively (P>0.05). Using multivariate analysis, presence of a surgical trainee did not significantly influence any patient reported outcome and did not affect infection, revision, or 30- and 90-day readmission rates. Conclusion. This is one of the first studies to show that the presence of an orthopedic spine fellow or resident does not affect patient short-term outcomes in lumbar decompression surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-40
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Fellow
  • Lumbar decompression
  • Mental 52 component score of the SF-12 (MCS-12)
  • Neck disability index (NDI)
  • Patient reported outcome measurements (PROMs)
  • Physical component score of the SF-12 (PCS-12)
  • Physician assistant (PA)
  • Resident
  • VAS pain dominance
  • Visual analogue scale arm pain (VAS Arm)
  • Visual analogue scale neck pain (VAS Neck)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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