Children's Hospital Colorado
Orthopedics Institute
Orthopedics Institute

Spine Surgery Quality and Patient Safety

At Children's Hospital Colorado, we treat more kids, teens and young adults with spine conditions, like scoliosis, than any other hospital in the Rocky Mountain Region.

ZERO Surgical site infections in our standard spinal fusion patients from 2015-2018
THREE Day average length of hospital stay for our spinal fusion patients
75 Patients admitted to our hospital for spinal fusion surgery in 2018

The pediatric experts in our Orthopedics Institute know that it can be challenging to decide where to take your child for spine surgery, which is why we publish our spine surgery outcomes:

  • Our length of hospital stay data highlights the average amount of time our patients stay at the hospital to recover after spinal fusion surgery.
  • Our spine surgical site infection rates data highlights how often our patients experience infection related to spinal fusion surgery.
  • Our blood loss estimates data highlights the estimated average amount of blood loss our  patients lose during spinal fusion surgery.
  • Our patient volumes for spinal fusion surgery data highlights the number of spinal fusion surgeries our pediatric experts perform each year.

One of the reasons parents choose our Spine Program for their child's spine surgery is because, on average, our patients experience shorter hospital stays and return to activities more quickly.

Here's a look at how we are improving care and getting kids home sooner after spine surgery. The graph below reflects the average length of stay for patients who were treated for idiopathic scoliosis. On average our spinal fusion surgery patients stayed at the hospital three days following surgery.

Average length of hospital stay for spinal fusion surgery

Why do we measure how long kids stay in the hospital after spinal fusion surgery at the Orthopedic Institute?

Our spine team measures how many days a patient stays in the hospital for spine surgery to optimize care before, during and after surgery.

At Children's Colorado, we know that everyone recovers better at home, and that's especially true for kids and teens. Once our patients are home after surgery, they tend to relax, feel better and get back to their regular activities sooner. Plus, the risk of developing a complication after spine surgery increases the longer patients are in the hospital.

How have we shortened hospital stays for spinal fusion surgery?

Our team follows care guidelines that are proven to get patients home more quickly after spine surgery. The guidelines include a specific plan for pain management and getting out of bed to walk shortly after surgery with the help of physical therapists.

The care guidelines are carried out by a specialized pediatric spine care team that includes nurses, anesthesiologists, surgeons and physical therapists. Getting kids out of bed sooner after surgery gets their muscles moving, helps their breathing, and decreases pain and stiffness.

When can my child return to activities and sports after spinal fusion surgery?

Most patients can resume all sports and activities after their first checkup with the spine surgeon about one to two months after surgery. Our goal is to help children return to their normal life as soon as possible. Our spine surgeons use techniques that provide very strong fixation of the spine, which allows patients to return to sports and activities sooner.

Our team also educates patients and families about what to expect after surgery at a pre-surgery spine class, which allows parents to partner with the care team in the recovery process. Finally, families receive the support they need through our dedicated spine nurse line after they go home. Patients and their families can contact our spine nurse line at 720-777-6962.

What is the source of this data?

Our spine team in the Orthopedics Institute tracks the length of each patient's stay for spine surgery at Children's Colorado. The data is reviewed quarterly and updated on this website on an annual basis.

Preventing surgical site infections after a spinal fusion operation is one of the most important safety measures we take to protect your child.

What is a spine wound infection?

A spine wound infection is an infection that can occur if germs (bacteria) get into the surgical wound. An infection may cause problems in a patient's recovery if not prevented.

Why do we measure post-operative (after surgery) spine wound infections?

Our spine team at Children's Colorado is committed to improving outcomes for patients who have spine surgery. A patient who gets this type of wound infection might have to be readmitted to the hospital to treat the infection, which is why we work so diligently to prevent it.

Monitoring the infection rates in spinal fusion surgeries also helps us investigate the cause or risk factors that may have led to the infection.

How many spine surgery site infections have occurred at Children's Colorado?

ZERO Surgical site infections in our standard spinal fusion patients from 2015-2018
THREE Day average length of hospital stay for our spinal fusion patients
75 Patients admitted to our hospital for spinal fusion surgery in 2018

In 2018, we had zero surgical site infections in standard risk spine fusion patients – for the third year in a row.

We monitor patients for infections for 90 days after surgery. The amount of infections listed for 2018 may change if a patient develops one in the 90 days after their surgery.

Note: For patients with underlying medical conditions who need a spine fusion, please discuss surgical infection risk with your child’s surgeon.

How has the Orthopedics Institute at Children's Colorado been able to improve standard spine wound infection rates?

To help reduce these types of infections, the Orthopedics Institute started an interdisciplinary spine infection task force in July 2007. The task force is made up of spine surgeons, epidemiologists, infection preventionists, a pharmacist, anesthesiologist and nurses (from the operating room, outpatient and inpatient areas where spine patients are treated).

The goal of this team is to reduce spine surgical site infection rates and monitor our hospital's compliance with evidence-based practices to prevent these infections.

What is the source of this data?

This data comes from medical records of patients who have had a spine fusion surgery at the Orthopedics Institute at Children's Colorado. The information is reviewed regularly by the spine infection task force to track our own hospital's progress as well as how we compare to other hospitals.

Why do we measure estimated blood loss?

We measure estimated blood loss to help manage our patients’ anesthesia needs during surgery. As a patient loses more blood, they need more fluid and medical support. Patients with a large estimated blood loss may also need blood transfusions.

Our surgeons review trends of estimated blood loss to help understand the success of surgical innovations. We are always striving to reduce blood loss during scoliosis surgery because patients who lose less blood during surgery recover more quickly after surgery.

What’s the average estimated blood loss during spine surgery at Children’s Colorado?

The graph below shows the average estimated blood loss patients experience during scoliosis surgery at Children’s Colorado. No patient with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis has required a blood transfusion during surgery since 2015.

Average estimated blood loss for spinal fusion surgery

What’s the source of this data?

Our anesthesiologists, blood cell salvage technicians and surgeons work together to determine estimated blood loss. We record that information in the patient’s medical record and report averages annually.

How has the Orthopedics Institute at Children’s Colorado been able to improve estimated blood loss?

We use evidence-based guidelines to reduce blood loss during spinal surgery. Specific interventions include:

  • Medications
  • Surgical tools and techniques
  • Experienced surgeons, who can safely and effectively perform scoliosis surgery, usually in less than three hours

Our spine team members routinely teach our techniques internationally and have published research articles describing our techniques and results.

What are patient volumes for spinal fusion surgery?

Patient volumes include the number of patients who were admitted to a hospital for spinal fusion surgery within one calendar year.

The graph below highlights the patient volumes for spinal fusion surgery at Children's Colorado by year.

Patient volumes for spinal fusion surgery

Why are spinal fusion surgery volumes important?

Choosing the right surgeon for your child is an important decision. Knowing a hospital's patient volumes can make it easier to decide where to go because:

  • A care team's experience, training and state-of-the-art equipment are factors that parents should consider when deciding on the best choice for your child.
  • Knowing patient volumes of hospitals in the greater Denver area helps inform you of the amount of experience surgeons have performing pediatric spinal fusion surgery.
  • Research shows that centers and surgeons performing higher volumes of spinal procedures have better outcomes.

At Children's Colorado, we perform more than 250 spine procedures each year to treat spine conditions, including idiopathic scoliosis. That means our orthopedic spine surgeons treat more kids and teens for spine conditions than any other hospital in the Rocky Mountain Region.

Why are our patient volumes for spinal fusion surgery higher than the other hospitals?

Orthopedic surgeons, nurses and physicians assistants at Children's Colorado are specially trained to care just for kids. We talk to patients in age-appropriate language that children and teens can understand, we educate patients and families about healthcare choices and we're on the forefront of orthopedic research in the treatment of spine conditions. That's why more families have chosen us for spine fusion surgery than anywhere else in Colorado.

What is the source of this data?

Children's Colorado uses information from the Colorado Hospital Association and Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS).

The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) represents 100 hospitals and health systems in Colorado and provides credible information on hospital data and trends to the public. Most of the hospitals in Colorado submit information to CHA as a shared commitment to improving healthcare in Colorado.

All hospitals in Colorado, who are members of the Colorado Hospital Association, voluntarily submit length of stay for spine surgery to the Colorado Hospital Association. This data is compiled and made available to member hospitals and the public via the CHA website. Our team analyzes this data and measures how we compare to other hospitals across the state.

Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) is an organization that collects information from 45 children's hospitals about surgeries and procedures.

The Connection Journey: Growing through Scoliosis

It's never easy to learn your child has a serious condition that may require surgery. Jessica and her parents share their spine surgery experience with Emily and her dad as they prepare for her upcoming scoliosis surgery.

Watch their journeys