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Temporal Relationship Between Lumbar Spine Surgeries, Return to Work, and Workers' Compensation Costs in a Cohort of Injured Workers

Lavin, Robert A. MD; Tao, Xuguang MD, PhD; Yuspeh, Larry BA; Bernacki, Edward J. MD, MPH

Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine: May 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 5 - p 539–543
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31828515e6
Original Articles

Objective: Determine the relationship between time to surgery, lost time, and insurance costs.

Method: A cohort of 582 claimants undergoing lumbar spine surgery (1999 to 2002) in the state of Louisiana was observed for 7 years.

Results: The shorter the time interval between injury and first lumbar surgery, the lower the cost and time lost from work. Average days lost from work and claim costs for 42% of those undergoing early lumbar surgery did not differ from injured workers who lost time from work for claims not involving lumbar surgery. Claim cost for the remaining 58% who had delayed surgery was 5.7 times greater than that for the early surgery cohort.

Conclusion: The decision to perform lumbar surgery is not necessarily associated with high claim costs or longer time out from work, provided that the determination to operate is early.

From the Department of Neurology (Dr Lavin), University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore; Division of Environmental and Occupational Medicine (Dr Tao), Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md; Strategic Risk and Strategy Management (Ms Yuspeh), Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation, Baton Rouge; and Division of Occupational Medicine (Dr Bernacki), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md.

Address correspondence to: Robert A. Lavin, MD, Department of Neurology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 110 S. Paca St., Baltimore, MD 21201.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

The study received partial funding from the Louisiana Workers' Compensation Corporation.

©2013The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine