Cost containment plays an increasingly important role in health care, affecting providers and recipients. The present investigation addressed a limited number of factors that relate to the total cost for surgical treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. The purpose of this study was to compare socioeconomic factors in two different societies and how worker's compensation plays a role in the cost, rehabilitation, and operative practices. To that purpose, the authors studied hospital and insurance records from a total of 123 female patients treated in two tertiary referral centers (University of Pittsburgh, Pa., and University of Umea, Sweden). The 123 patients were referred to three subgroups. Group A comprised patients from the University of Pittsburgh with worker's compensation (n = 34), group B comprised patients from the University of Pittsburgh without worker's compensation (n = 47), and group C comprised patients from the University of Umea (n = 42). The analyzed data showed a tendency toward longer duration of postoperative sick leave for those with worker's compensation than those without worker's compensation for patients from the University of Pittsburgh. However, operating room times and operating times, operative cost, use of postoperative therapy, and duration for sick leave were substantially less for patients treated at the University of Umea. There was no statistically significant difference in time off work between group A and group B. The results may indicate that the effect of compensation on a patient's ability or willingness to recover after treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome may be less important than factors that do not primarily relate to the patient or the surgical procedure. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 109: 1574, 2002.)
Charlotte, N.C., Pittsburgh, Pa., and Los Angeles, Calif.
From the Charlotte Plastic Surgery Center and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Received for publication June 22, 2000; revised July 5, 2001. Presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of the Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons, in Bermuda, in October of 1997, and at the Swedish Hand Society Meeting, in Stockholm, Sweden, in November of 1998.
George J. Bitar, M.D.
1716 Irvin Street Vienna, Va. 22182GBITAR007@aol.com