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Impact of Lumbar Fusion on Health Care Resource Utilization

Mina, Curtis, MD, MBA; Carreon, Leah Y., MD, MSc; Glassman, Steven D., MD

doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000001225

Study Design. A longitudinal cohort.

Objective. The aim of this study was to determine the extent of health care resource utilization decrease 2 years after lumbar spinal fusion.

Summary of Background Data. Despite the assumption that surgery will minimize the need for ongoing nonsurgical treatment, the impact of lumbar fusion on subsequent health care resource utilization has not been effectively studied.

Methods. Patients who had continuous coverage by a major insurer during the year before decompression and posterolateral instrumented spinal fusion, and the 2 and a half years following were identified. All charges processed during this time-period were collected. Charges associated with the index surgery, the 90-day postoperative period, and those unrelated to spinal care were excluded. Associations with Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score improvement at 2 years after surgery and health care resource utilization were determined.

Results. Sixty-six patients were included in the analysis. The mean age was 59 years and 39% were males. There was a decrease in health care utilization costs 1 year after surgery ($3267.59) compared with pre-op ($4246.32), but this was not statistically significant (P = 0.197). There was a statistically significant decrease in costs during the second year after surgery ($1420.97) compared with either pre-op (P = 0.000) or 1-year costs (P = 0.001). No statistically significant correlations could be found between change in ODI scores and costs incurred at either year post-op.

Conclusion. Health care utilization decreased at 1 year and significantly at 2 years after lumbar fusion. However, there was no correlation between use of nonsurgical resources and clinical outcome based on ODI scores. This raises the question as to whether these resources were used in a rational manner. This cooperative study between a major insurer and a tertiary spine center provides improved insight into the cost profile of lumbar fusion surgery. Further study is needed to determine whether ongoing post-op treatment is necessary or simply established practice.

Level of Evidence: 2

*OrthoArizona, Spine & Orthopedic Specialists, Scottsdale, Arizona

Norton Leatherman Spine Center, Louisville, Kentucky.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Leah Y. Carreon, MD, MSc, Norton Leatherman Spine Center, 210 East Gray Street, Suite 900, Louisville, KY 40202; E-mail:

Received 29 May, 2015

Revised 12 August, 2015

Accepted 31 August, 2015

The manuscript submitted does not contain information about medical device(s)/drug(s).

No funds were received in support of this work.

Relevant financial activities outside the submitted work: board membership, consultancy, employment, grants, patents, royalties, travel/accommodations/meeting expenses.

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