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King JT, Gordon AJ, Perkal MF, Crystal S, Rosenthal RA, Rodriguez-Barradas MC, Butt AA, Gibert CL, Rimland D, Simberkoff MS, Justice AC. Disparities in rates of spine surgery for degenerative spine disease between HIV-infected and uninfected veterans. Spine (Philadelphia, Pa. : 1986). 2012 Apr 1; 37(7):612-22.
STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective analysis of nationwide Veterans Health Administration clinical and administrative data. OBJECTIVE: Examine the association between HIV infection and the rate of spine surgery for degenerative spine disease. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: Combination antiretroviral therapy has prolonged survival in HIV-infected patients, increasing the prevalence of chronic conditions such as degenerative spine disease that may require spine surgery. METHODS: We studied all HIV-infected patients under care in the Veterans Health Administration from 1996 to 2008 (n = 40,038) and uninfected comparator patients (n = 79,039) matched on age, sex, race, year, and geographic region. The primary outcome was spine surgery for degenerative spine disease, defined by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision procedure and diagnosis codes. We used a multivariate Poisson regression to model spine surgery rates by HIV infection status, adjusting for factors that might affect suitability for surgery (demographics, year, comorbidities, body mass index, combination antiretroviral therapy, and laboratory values). RESULTS: Two hundred twenty-eight HIV-infected and 784 uninfected patients underwent spine surgery for degenerative spine disease during 700,731 patient-years of follow-up (1.44 surgeries per 1000 patient-years). The most common procedures were spinal decompression (50%) and decompression and fusion (33%); the most common surgical sites were the lumbosacral (50%) and cervical (40%) spine. Adjusted rates of surgery were lower for HIV-infected patients (0.86 per 1000 patient-years of follow-up) than for uninfected patients (1.41 per 1000 patient-years; incidence rate ratio 0.61, 95% confidence interval: 0.51-0.74, P < 0.001). Among HIV-infected patients, there was a trend toward lower rates of spine surgery in patients with detectable viral load levels (incidence rate ratio 0.76, 95% confidence interval: 0.55-1.05, P = 0.099). CONCLUSION: In the Veterans Health Administration, HIV-infected patients experience significantly reduced rates of surgery for degenerative spine disease. Possible explanations include disease prevalence, emphasis on treatment of nonspine HIV-related symptoms, surgical referral patterns, impact of HIV on surgery risk-benefit ratio, patient preferences, and surgeon bias.