Background: Deep infection following total hip arthroplasty is a devastating complication for the patient and a costly one for patients, surgeons, hospitals, and payers. The purpose of this study was to compare revision total hip arthroplasty for infection, revision total hip arthroplasty for aseptic loosening, and primary total hip arthroplasty with respect to their impact on hospital and surgeon resource utilization and referral patterns to a tertiary-care hospital.
Methods: Clinical, demographic, and economic data were obtained for twenty-five consecutive patients with an infection after a total hip replacement who underwent a two-stage revision arthroplasty (Group 1) performed by one of two surgeons, between March 2001 and December 2002, at a single institution. Similar data were collected during the same time-period for a cohort of twenty-five consecutive patients who underwent revision of both components because of aseptic loosening (Group 2) and twenty-five consecutive patients who underwent a primary hip arthroplasty (Group 3). Quantitative and categorical variables were compared among the groups. Referral patterns were examined by reviewing the primary diagnosis for all patients referred to our institution for a revision total hip arthroplasty during a five-year period.
Results: Revision procedures for infection were associated with longer operative time, more blood loss, and a higher number of complications compared with revisions for aseptic loosening or primary total hip arthroplasty (p < 0.02 for all). Revisions for infection were also associated with a higher total number of hospitalizations, total number of days in the hospital, total number of operations, total hospital costs, total outpatient visits, and total outpatient charges during the twelve-month period following the index procedure (p < 0.001 for all). The incidence of referrals to our institution for a diagnosis of infection following total hip arthroplasty increased significantly over a five-year period (Spearman rank correlation, 1.0; p = 0.0083), while referral rates for revision for causes other than infection remained relatively constant (Spearman rank correlation, 0.500; p = 0.3910).
Conclusions: The treatment of patients with an infection after a total hip arthroplasty is associated with significantly greater hospital and physician resource utilization compared with the treatment of patients who have a revision because of aseptic loosening or who have a primary total hip arthroplasty. We believe that the lack of incremental reimbursement associated with these procedures results in strong financial disincentives for physicians and hospitals to provide treatment for patients with an infection after a total hip arthroplasty.