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Protein Growth Factor Used in a Quarter of Spinal Fusions

Last Updated: June 30, 2009.

A sharp increase in the use of bone-morphogenetic protein growth factor in spinal fusion since 2002 is associated with an increase in the complication rate for anterior cervical fusion and increased hospitalization charges, according to a study in the July 1 Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, June 30 (HealthDay News) -- A sharp increase in the use of bone-morphogenetic protein (BMP) growth factor in spinal fusion since 2002 is associated with an increase in the complication rate for anterior cervical fusion and increased hospitalization charges, according to a study in the July 1 Journal of the American Medical Association.

Kevin S. Cahill, M.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues conducted a study of 328,468 patients drawn from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database who underwent spinal fusion procedures between 2002 and 2006. The researchers looked at the rates of BMP use, as well as complication rates, length of hospitalization, and hospital charges associated with BMP use.

The researchers found that, nationwide, the use of BMP increased from 0.69 percent of all fusions in 2002 to 24.89 percent in 2006, with BMP usage varying by sex, race, and insurer. Complications rates for BMP use versus nonuse did not differ for lumbar, thoracic, or posterior cervical procedures; however, BMP use in anterior cervical fusion was associated with a higher complication rate (7.09 percent with BMP versus 4.68 percent without BMP). BMP use also drove up hospital charges ranging between 11 and 41 percent, with the greatest increase seen for hospitalization involving anterior cervical fusion.

"Bone-morphogenetic protein was used in approximately 25 percent of all spinal fusions nationally in 2006, with use associated with more frequent complications for anterior cervical fusions and with greater hospital charges for all categories of fusions," the authors conclude.

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