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“Does the Outcome of Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Surgery Justify the Rising Cost of the Procedures?”

Roach, James W. MD*; Mehlman, Charles T. DO, MPH; Sanders, James O. MD

doi: 10.1097/BPO.0b013e3181f73bfd
Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis

Background As the cost of medical care has steady risen, patients, insurance companies, and the government, have all appropriately questioned the benefit of the care provided versus the cost. Expensive treatments such as surgery for spinal deformity have been especially scrutinized. This article reviews the history of spinal implant usage in deformity surgery, including the benefits of these implants to the patient and also the associated costs. The paper was presented at the One Day Course during the 2009 Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America annual meeting in Boston.

Methods A review was conducted regarding the benefits and costs of the care provided to patients as spinal implants became more clinically effective.

Results Compared with postoperative casting, spinal implants provide better deformity correction and better stability of the fusion mass with resulting lower rates of secondary surgery, mostly because of fewer pseudarthoses. Many of these advantages were achieved with the less-expensive second and third-generation implants. Unfortunately, patient outcomes when the latest, most expensive implants are used are not significantly different from outcomes when older, less-expensive implants are used.

Conclusions Although the cost of spinal deformity surgery has risen the benefit to the patient from modern spinal implants has also increased. Nevertheless, patient outcomes have not improved in proportion to the increase in costs. Outcomes from the newest, all pedicle screw constructs are not significantly better than outcomes from the older, less-expensive hybrid constructs. Rising expenses and dramatic variation in the cost of the same implant have led payors, hospitals, and the government to question the value added to the care of the patient. Some implant costs should fall as hospitals use competitive bidding. Surgeons should help their hospitals in the competitive bidding process and declare a willingness to switch to an equivalent system if price differences are excessive.

Levels of Evidence Level IV Economic Analysis.

*Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA

Department of Pediatrics and Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, OH

Department of Orthopaedics, University of Rochester, Golisano Children's Hospital, Rochester, NY

None of the authors received financial support for this study.

Reprints: James W. Roach, MD, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, 4401 Penn Avenue Faculty Pavilion 4th Floor, Pittsburgh, PA 15224. e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.