Retrospective cohort study.
The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate the regional variations in the use of nonoperative therapies in patients diagnosed with a lumbar intervertebral disc herniation 3 months prior to undergoing microdiscectomy surgery.
Summary of Background Data.
Regional variations in the management of chronic pain conditions have been previously identified. Patients suffering from a lumbar intervertebral disc herniation are typically treated with a brief course of conservative management prior to attempting microdiscectomy surgery. Whether regional differences exist in the utilization or costs of maximum nonoperative therapy (MNT) remains unknown.
Medical records from patients diagnosed with a lumbar intervertebral disc herniation undergoing 1, 2, or 3-level index microdiscectomy operations between 2007 and 2017 were gathered from the HORTHO insurance database consisting of private/commercially insured and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. Patient regional designation was divided into Midwest, Northeast, South, and West territories and was derived from the insurance claim location. The utilization of MNT within 3 months after initial lumbar herniation diagnosis in adult patients was analyzed.
Our population consisted of 13,106 patients who underwent primary index microdiscectomy surgery. Significant regional variation was identified in the nonoperative therapy failure rate (P<0.0001), with the highest proportion of Midwest patients failing (2.7%). There were statistical differences in the regional distribution of patients utilizing NSAIDs (P<0.0001), muscle relaxants (P <0.0001), lumbar epidural steroid injections (P <0.0001), physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions (P <0.0001), chiropractor treatments (P <0.0001), and emergency department services (P = 0.0049). The total direct cost associated with all MNT prior to microdiscectomy was $13,205,924, with 59.6% from the South, 31.1% from the Midwest, 8.3% from the West, and 1.1% from the Northeast.
These findings indicate that regional differences exist in the utilization and costs of MNT of a lumbar intervertebral herniated disc prior to microdiscectomy surgery.
Level of Evidence: 3