Retrospective, observational study.
To examine the costs associated with nonoperative management (diagnosis and treatment) of cervical radiculopathy in the year prior to anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).
Summary of Background Data.
While the costs of operative treatment have been previously described, less is known about nonoperative management costs of cervical radiculopathy leading up to surgery.
The Humana claims dataset (2007–2015) was queried to identify adult patients with cervical radiculopathy that underwent ACDF. Outcome endpoint was assessment of cumulative and per-capita costs for nonoperative diagnostic (x-rays, computed tomographic [CT], magnetic resonance imaging [MRI], electromyogram/nerve conduction studies [EMG/NCS]) and treatment modalities (injections, physical therapy [PT], braces, medications, chiropractic services) in the year preceding surgical intervention.
Overall 12,514 patients (52% female) with cervical radiculopathy underwent ACDF. Cumulative costs and per-capita costs for nonoperative management, during the year prior to ACDF was $14.3 million and $1143, respectively. All patients underwent at least one diagnostic test (MRI: 86.7%; x-ray: 57.5%; CT: 35.2%) while 73.3% patients received a nonoperative treatment. Diagnostic testing comprised of over 62% of total nonoperative costs ($8.9 million) with MRI constituting the highest total relative spend ($5.3 million; per-capita: $489) followed by CT ($2.6 million; per-capita: $606), x-rays ($0.54 million; per-capita: $76), and EMG/NCS ($0.39 million; per-capita: $467). Conservative treatments comprised of 37.7% of the total nonoperative costs ($5.4 million) with injections costs constituting the highest relative spend ($3.01 million; per-capita: $988) followed by PT ($1.13 million; per-capita: $510) and medications (narcotics: $0.51 million, per-capita $101; gabapentin: $0.21 million, per-capita $93; NSAIDs: 0.107 million, per-capita $47), bracing ($0.25 million; per-capita: $193), and chiropractic services ($0.137 million; per-capita: $193).
The study quantifies the cumulative and per-capital costs incurred 1-year prior to ACDF in patients with cervical radiculopathy for nonoperative diagnostic and treatment modalities. Approximately two-thirds of the costs associated with cervical radiculopathy are from diagnostic modalities. As institutions begin entering into bundled payments for cervical spine disease, understanding condition specific costs is a critical first step.
Level of Evidence: 3