Spine surgery has demonstrated cost-effectiveness in reducing pain and restoring function, but the impact of spine surgery relative to nonsurgical care on longer-term outcomes has been less well described. Our objective was to compare single-level surgical treatment for lumbar stenosis, with or without spondylolisthesis, and nonsurgical treatment with respect to patient mortality, resource utilization, and health-care payments over the first 2 years following initial treatment.
A retrospective review of the Medicare National Database Fee for Service Files from 2011 to 2017 was performed. A 2-year prediction of mortality risk (risk stratification index, RSI) was used as a measure of patient baseline health. Patients (88%) were matched by RSI and demographics. Mortality, spine-related health-care utilization, and 2-year total Medicare payments for patients undergoing surgical treatment were compared with matched patients undergoing nonsurgical treatment.
We identified 61,534 patients with stenosis alone and 83,813 with stenosis and spondylolisthesis. Surgical treatment was associated with 28% lower 2-year mortality compared with matched patients undergoing nonsurgical treatment. Total Medicare payments were significantly lower for patients with stenosis alone undergoing laminectomy alone and for patients with stenosis and spondylolisthesis undergoing laminectomy with or without fusion compared with patients undergoing nonsurgical treatment. There was no significant difference in mortality when fusion or laminectomy was compared with combined fusion and laminectomy. However, laminectomy alone was associated with significantly lower 2-year payments when treating stenosis with or without spondylolisthesis.
Surgical treatment for stenosis with or without spondylolisthesis within the Medicare population was associated with significantly lower mortality and total medical payments at 2 years compared with nonsurgical treatment, although residual confounding could have contributed to these findings.
Level of Evidence:
Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.