Hospital cost differences between open and endoscopic lumbar spine decompression surgery

J Neurosurg Spine 40:77–83, 2024

In recent years, fully endoscopic decompression surgery for degenerative spine disease has become increasingly popular in the US. Although an endoscopic approach has demonstrated some benefits compared with open procedures in randomized controlled trials, the cost of advanced technologies remains contested. The authors evaluated the differences in costs and cost drivers between open and endoscopic decompression surgical procedures performed at a single institution.

METHODS Using associated Current Procedural Terminology codes, the authors identified all open and endoscopic decompression lumbar surgical procedures performed from January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2022. Preoperative comorbidities, surgical characteristics, and postoperative outcomes were captured. The costs of index surgery–related readmission for revision, washout, or other complications were included in the index surgery expenses. Associated inhospital costs were collected; these were reported in comparative percentages with open surgical procedures as the baseline because of an institutional agreement. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.

RESULTS The retrospective search identified 633 open surgical procedures and 195 endoscopic surgical procedures for inclusion. The two patient cohorts were similar, with clinically nonrelevant but statistically significant differences in mean age (open 55.7 years vs endoscopic 59.4 years, p = 0.01) and mean American Society of Anesthesiologists physical status class (open 2.3 vs endoscopic 2.4, p = 0.03). Postoperatively, patients who underwent open surgical procedures had significantly longer mean hospital stays (open 1.4 days vs endoscopic 0.7, p < 0.01) and more perioperative complications (open 7.9% of patients vs endoscopic 3.1%, p = 0.02), and they required washout surgical procedures in some cases (open 1.3% vs endoscopic 0%, p = 0.12). The largest cost difference between open and endoscopic surgical procedures was the significantly greater cost of disposable supplies for endoscopic cases (10.1% vs 31.7% of the total cost of open procedures, p < 0.01), and open surgical procedures were generally less costly in total (100.0% vs 115.1%, p < 0.01). In multivariate linear regression, endoscopic surgery was independently associated with greater total costs (standardized beta 15.9%, p < 0.01), although length of hospital stay (standardized beta 34.0%) and readmissions (standardized beta 30.0%, p < 0.01) had larger effects on cost.

CONCLUSIONS The endoscopic approach was associated with greater total in-hospital costs compared with open procedures. The findings of further cost evaluations, including those of patient-reported outcomes, social cost, and capital costs per procedure type, need to be included in operational and clinical decisions.

Effect of Lumbar Discectomy or Lumbar Decompression on Axial Back Pain: Results of a Meta-Analysis

World Neurosurg. (2023) 177:109-121

This meta-analysis evaluated the impact of lumbar disk herniation and lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) on axial back pain and the extent of improvement of axial and radicular pain following lumbar decompression and discectomy surgery in patients with low back pain (LBP).

METHODS: A systematic search for published literature between January 2012 and January 2023 was made on PubMed, Google Scholar, and Cochrane library database on 31 st January 2023.

Original articles that included patients with lumbar disc herniation or LSS who underwent lumbar discectomy or lumbar decompression respectively were included in the study.

RESULTS: A total of 71 studies including 16,770 patients with LBP undergoing lumbar discectomy or decompression surgery were included in the metaanalysis. The pooled standard mean difference between postoperative and preoperative: Visual Analog Scale scores for leg pain was L5.14 with 95% confidence interval (CI): L6.59 to L3.69 (P-value [ 0) and for back pain was L2.90 with 95% CI: L3.79 to L2.01 (P value [ 0), Numerical pain Rating Scale for leg pain was L1.64 with 95% CI: L1.97 to L1.30 (P-value<0.01) and for back pain was L1.58 with 95% CI: L1.84 to L1.32 (P-value <0.01), Oswerty Disability Index score was L4.76 with 95% CI: L6.22 to L3.29 (P-value [ 0) and the Japanese Orthopaedic Association score was 3.45 with 95% CI: 0.02 to 6.88 (P value 0) at follow-up.

CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis provides evidence that lumbar discectomy and decompression are effective in improving axial LBP in patients with lumbar disk herniation and LSS.


Low-back pain after lumbar discectomy for disc herniation: what can you tell your patient?

J Neurosurg Spine 35:715–721, 2021

Lumbar discectomy (LD) is frequently performed to alleviate radicular pain resulting from disc herniation. While this goal is achieved in most patients, improvement in low-back pain (LBP) has been reported inconsistently. The goal of this study was to characterize how LBP evolves following discectomy.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected patient data from the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network (CSORN) registry. Patients who underwent surgery for lumbar disc herniation were eligible for inclusion. The primary outcome was a clinically significant reduction in the back pain numerical rating scale (BPNRS) assessed at 12 months. Binary logistic regression was used to model the relationship between the primary outcome and potential predictors.

RESULTS There were 557 patients included in the analysis. The chief complaint was radiculopathy in 85%; 55% of patients underwent a minimally invasive procedure. BPNRS improved at 3 months by 48% and this improvement was sustained at all follow-ups. LBP and leg pain improvement were correlated. Clinically significant improvement in BPNRS at 12 months was reported by 64% of patients. Six factors predicted a lack of LBP improvement: female sex, low education level, marriage, not working, low expectations with regard to LBP improvement, and a low BPNRS preoperatively.

CONCLUSIONS Clinically significant improvement in LBP is observed in the majority of patients after LD. These data should be used to better counsel patients and provide accurate expectations about back pain improvement.

Outcomes following discectomy for lumbar disc herniation in patients with substantial back pain

J Neurosurg Spine 33:623–626, 2020

Patients with lumbar disc herniation (LDH) typically present with lower-extremity radiculopathy. However, there are patients who have concomitant substantial back pain (BP) and are considered candidates for fusion. The purpose of this study was to determine if patients with LDH and substantial BP improve with discectomy alone.

METHODS The DaneSpine database was used to identify 2399 patients with LDH and baseline BP visual analog scale (VAS) scores ≥ 50 who underwent a lumbar discectomy at one of 3 facilities between June 2010 and December 2017. Standard demographic and surgical variables and patient-reported outcomes, including BP and leg pain (LP) VAS scores (0–100), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and European Quality of Life–5 Dimensions Questionnaire (EQ-5D) at baseline and 12 months postoperatively, were collected.

RESULTS A total of 1654 patients (69%) had 12-month data available, with a mean age of 48.7 years; 816 (49%) were male and the mean BMI was 27 kg/m2. At 12 months postoperatively, there were statistically significant improvements (p < 0.0001) in BP (72.6 to 36.9), LP (74.8 to 32.6), ODI (50.9 to 25.1), and EQ-5D (0.25 to 0.65) scores.

CONCLUSIONS Patients with LDH and LP and concomitant substantial BP can be counseled to expect improvement in their BP 12 months after surgery after a discectomy alone, as well as improvement in their LP.


Lumbar disk herniation during pregnancy: a review on general management and timing of surgery

Acta Neurochir (2018) 160:1361–1370

Objective Provide an overview of existing management strategies to suggest a guideline for surgical management of lumbar disk herniation in pregnant women based on time of presentation.

Methods We performed a narrative review on the topic using the PubMed database. A total of 63 relevant articles published after 1992 were identified, of which 17 fulfilled selection criteria.

Results A total of 22 published cases of spine surgery for disk herniation during pregnancy were found in 17 studies on the topic. Prone positioning was reported in the majority of cases during the first and early second trimester. C-sections were performed prior to spine surgery in the prone position for the majority of patients operated during the third trimester. The left lateral position with continued pregnancy was preferred during the latter half of the second trimester when delivery of the fetus cannot yet be performed but surgery is indicated.

Conclusion Spine surgery during pregnancy is a rare scenario but can be performed safely when needed if providers adhere to general guidelines. Surgical approaches and overall management are influenced by the stage of pregnancy.

Esophageal perforation after anterior cervical spine surgery


J Neurosurg Spine 25:285–291, 2016

Esophageal perforation is a rare but well-known complication of anterior cervical spine surgery. The authors performed a systematic review of the literature to evaluate symptomatology, direct causes, repair methods, and associated complications of esophageal injury.

Methods A PubMed search that adhered to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines included relevant clinical studies and case reports (articles written in the English language that included humans as subjects) that reported patients who underwent anterior spinal surgery and sustained some form of esophageal perforation. Available data on clinical presentation, the surgical procedure performed, outcome measures, and other individual variables were abstracted from 1980 through 2015.

Results The PubMed search yielded 65 articles with 153 patients (mean age 44.7 years; range 14–85 years) who underwent anterior spinal surgery and sustained esophageal perforation, either during surgery or in a delayed fashion. The most common indications for initial anterior cervical spine surgery in these cases were vertebral fracture/dislocation (n = 77), spondylotic myelopathy (n = 15), and nucleus pulposus herniation (n = 10). The most commonly involved spinal levels were C5–6 (n = 51) and C6–7 (n = 39). The most common presenting symptoms included dysphagia (n = 63), fever (n = 24), neck swelling (n = 23), and wound leakage (n = 18). The etiology of esophageal perforation included hardware failure (n = 31), hardware erosion (n = 23), and intraoperative injury (n = 14). The imaging modalities used to identify the esophageal perforations included modified contrast dye swallow studies, CT, endoscopy, plain radiography, and MRI. Esophageal repair was most commonly achieved using a modified muscle flap, as well as with primary closure. Outcomes measured in the literature were often defined by the time to oral intake following esophageal repair. Complications included pneumonia (n = 6), mediastinitis (n = 4), osteomyelitis (n = 3), sepsis (n = 3), acute respiratory distress syndrome (n = 2), and recurrent laryngeal nerve damage (n = 1). The mortality rate of esophageal perforation in the analysis was 3.92% (6 of 153 reported patients).

Conclusions Esophageal perforation after anterior cervical spine surgery is a rare complication. This systematic review demonstrates that these perforations can be stratified into 3 categories based on the timing of symptomatic onset: intraoperative, early postoperative (within 30 days of anterior spinal surgery), and delayed. The most common source of esophageal injury is hardware erosion or migration, each of which may vary in their time to symptomatic manifestation.

Two-level corpectomy versus three-level discectomy for cervical spondylotic myelopathy

Two-level corpectomy versus three-level discectomy for cervical spondylotic myelopathy

J Neurosurg Spine 23:280–289, 2015

In the treatment of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM), anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion (ACCF) and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) are effective decompressive techniques. It remains to be determined whether ACCF and ACDF offer equivalent outcomes for multilevel CSM. In this study, the authors compared perioperative, radiographic, and clinical outcomes between 2-level ACCF and 3-level ACDF.

Methods Between 2006 and 2012, all patients at the authors’ hospital who underwent 2-level ACCF or 3-level ACDF performed by 1 of 2 surgeons were identified. Primary outcomes of interest were sagittal Cobb angle, adjacent-segment disease (ASD) requiring surgery, neck pain measured by visual analog scale (VAS), and Nurick score. Secondary outcomes of interest included estimated blood loss (EBL), length of stay, perioperative complications, and radiographic pseudarthrosis rate. Chi-square tests and 2-tailed Student t-tests were used to compare the 2 groups. A subgroup analysis of patients without posterior spinal fusion (PSF) was also performed.

Results Twenty patients underwent 2-level ACCF, and 35 patients underwent 3-level ACDF during a 6-year period. Preoperative Nurick scores were higher in the ACCF group (2.1 vs 1.1, p = 0.014), and more patients underwent PSF in the 2-level ACCF group compared with patients in the 3-level ACDF group (60.0% vs 17.1%, p = 0.001). Otherwise there were no significant differences in demographics, comorbidities, and baseline clinical parameters between the 2 groups. Two-level ACCF was associated with significantly higher EBL compared with 3-level ACDF for the anterior stage of surgery (382.2 ml vs 117.9 ml, p < 0.001). Two-level ACCF was also associated with a longer hospital stay compared with 3-level ACDF (7.2 days vs 4.9 days, p = 0.048), but a subgroup comparison of patients without PSF showed no significant difference in length of stay (3.1 days vs 4.4 days for 2-level ACCF vs 3-level ACDF, respectively; p = 0.267). Similarly, there was a trend toward more complications in the 2-level ACCF group (20.0%) than the 3-level ACDF group (5.7%; p = 0.102), but a subgroup analysis that excluded those who had second-stage PSF no longer showed the same trend (2-level ACCF, 0.0% vs 3-level ACDF, 3.4%; p = 0.594). There were no significant differences between the ACCF group and the ACDF group in terms of postoperative sagittal Cobb angle (7.2° vs 12.1°, p = 0.173), operative ASD (6.3% vs 3.6%, p = 0.682), and radiographic pseudarthrosis rate (6.3% vs 7.1%, p = 0.909). Both groups had similar improvement in mean VAS neck pain scores (3.4 vs 3.2 for ACCF vs ACDF, respectively; p = 0.860) and Nurick scores (0.8 vs 0.7, p = 0.925).

Conclusions Two-level ACCF was associated with greater EBL and longer hospital stays when patients underwent a second-stage PSF. However, the length of stay was similar when patients underwent anterior-only decompression with either 2-level ACCF or 3-level ACDF. Furthermore, perioperative complication rates were similar in the 2 groups when patients underwent anterior decompression without PSF. Both groups obtained similar postoperative cervical lordosis, operative ASD rates, radiographic pseudarthrosis rates, neurological improvement, and pain relief.

Anterior cervical discectomy versus corpectomy for multilevel cervical spondylotic myelopathy: a meta-analysis

Anterior cervical discectomy versus corpectomy for multilevel cervical spondylotic myelopathy

Eur Spine J (2015) 24:31–39

This is a meta-analysis to compare the results between anterior cervical discectomy fusion (ACDF) and anterior cervical corpectomy fusion (ACCF) for the patients with multilevel cervical spondylotic myelopathy (MCSM).

Methods Systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies between ACDF with plate fixation and ACCF with plate fixation for the treatment of MCSM. An extensive search of literature was performed in PubMed, Mediline, Embase and the Cochrane library. The following outcome measures were extracted: JOA scores, fusion rate, cervical lordosis (C2–7), complications, blood loss and operation time. Data analysis was conducted with RevMan 5.0.

Results Four cohorts (six studies) involving 258 patients were included in this study. The pooled analysis showed that there was no significant difference in the postoperative JOA score [WMD = -0.14 (-1.37, 1.10), P = 0.83], fusion rate [OR = 0.84 (0.15, 4.86), P = 0.85] between two group. However, there was significant difference in the cervical lordosis [WMD = 3.38 (2.52, 4.23), P<0.00001], surgical complication rate and instrument related complication rate (P = 0.01, 0.005 respectively), blood loss [WMD = -52.53 (-73.53, -31.52), P<0.00001], and operation time [WMD = -14.10 (-20.27, -7.93), P<0.00001].

Conclusions As compared with ACCF with plate fixation, ACDF with plate fixation showed no significant differences in terms of postoperative JOA score, fusion rate, but better improved cervical lordosis, lower complication and smaller surgical trauma. As the limitations of small sample and short follow-up in this study, it still could not be identified whether ACDF with plate fixation is more effective and safer than ACCF with plate fixation.

Arthroplasty Versus Fusion in Single-Level Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease


Spine 2013;38:E1096–E1107

Study Design. A systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Objective. To assess the effects of arthroplasty versus fusion in the treatment of radiculopathy or myelopathy, or both, due to singlelevel cervical degenerative disc disease.

Summary of Background Data. There is ongoing debate about whether fusion or arthroplasty is superior in the treatment of single-level cervical degenerative disc disease. Mainly because the intended advantage of arthroplasty compared with fusion, prevention of symptoms due to adjacent segment degeneration in the long term, is not confirmed yet. Until sufficient long-term results become available, it is important to know whether results of 1 of the 2 treatments are superior to the other in the first 1 to 2 years.

Methods. We searched electronic databases for randomized controlled trials. We included randomized controlled trials that directly compared any type of cervical fusion with any type of cervical arthroplasty, with at least 1 year of follow-up. Study selection was performed independently by 3 review authors, and “risk of bias” assessment and data extraction were independently performed by 2 review authors. In case of missing data, we contacted the study authors or the study sponsor. We assessed the quality of evidence.

Results. Nine studies (2400 participants) were included in this review; 5 of these studies had a low risk of bias. Results for the arthroplasty group were better than the fusion group for all primary comparisons, often statistically significant. For none of the primary outcomes was a clinically relevant difference in effect size shown. Quality of the evidence was low to moderate.

Conclusion. There is low to moderate quality evidence that results are consistently in favor of arthroplasty, often statistically significant. However, differences in effect size were invariably small and not clinically relevant for all primary outcomes.

Level of Evidence: 1

The high-risk discectomy patient: prevention of reherniation in patients with large anular defects using an anular closure device


Eur Spine J (2013) 22:1030–1036

With lumbar discectomy for disc herniation, surgeons must choose between limited nucleus removal associated with higher reherniation risk or more aggressive nucleus removal associated with increased back pain and disc degeneration. This trade-off is particularly challenging in patients with large anular defects, which carry the highest risk of reherniation. We examined the effect of an anular closure device on reherniation and clinical outcomes.

Methods Seventy-five primary discectomy patients had a limited discectomy followed by implantation of an anular closure device and were followed-up to 2 years. Anular defect size and volume of removed nucleus was recorded at surgery. Reherniations were reported, pain and function were monitored throughout, and imaging was performed at annual visits.

Results The overall symptomatic reherniation rate was 1.4 %, and the asymptomatic reherniation rate was 1.5 % at 12 months and 5.1 % at 24 months. Both rates compare favorably with literature reports which include symptomatic rates ranging between 2 and 18 % (up to 27 % for patients with large anular defects) and an asymptomatic rate of 13 %.

Conclusions The low reherniation rate in patients at highrisk of reherniation based on anular defect size, despite discectomy being only limited, suggests that an anular closure device may reduce reherniation risk. Clinical outcomes for pain and function at 1 and 2 years post-operatively compared favorably with literature reports. Further study in a randomized controlled trial is required to confirm these results.

Reoperation Rate After Surgery for Lumbar Herniated Intervertebral Disc Disease


Spine 2013 ; 38 : 581 – 590

Retrospective cohort study using national health insurance data.

Objective. To provide a longitudinal reoperation rate after surgery for lumbar herniated intervertebral disc (HIVD) disease, and to compare the reoperation rates of surgical methods.

Summary of Background Data. Herniated intervertebral disc disease is the most common cause of lumbar spinal surgery. Despite improved surgical techniques and instrumentation, reoperation cannot be avoided. The reoperation rates were in the range of 6% to 24% in previous studies. A population-based study is less subject to bias; hence, a nationwide longitudinal analysis was warranted.

Methods. A national health insurance database was used to identify a cohort of patients who underwent fi rst surgery for herniated intervertebral disc disease in 2003 and 18,590 patients were selected. Individual patients were followed for at least 5 years through their encrypted unique resident registration number. The primary endpoint was any type of second lumbar surgery. After adjusting for confounding factors, 5 surgical methods (fusion, laminectomy, open discectomy, endoscopic discectomy, and nucleolysis [including mechanical nucleus decompression]) were compared. Open discectomy was used as the reference method.

Results. Open discectomy was the most common procedure (68.9%) followed by endoscopic discectomy (16.1%), laminectomy (7.9%), fusion (3.9%), and nucleolysis (3.2%). The cumulative reoperation rate was 5.4% at 3 months, 7.4% at 1 year, 9% at 2 years, 10.5% at 3 years, 12.1% at 4 years, and 13.4% at 5 years. The reoperation rates were 18.6%, 14.7%, 13.8%, 12.4%, and 11.8% after laminectomy, nucleolysis, open discectomy, endoscopic discectomy, and fusion, respectively. Compared with open discectomy, the reoperation rate was higher after laminectomy at 3 months, whereas the other surgical methods had similar rates.

Conclusion. The cumulative reoperation rate after 5 years was 13.4% and half of the reoperations occurred during the fi rst postoperative year. With the exception of laminectomy, the reoperation rates of the other procedures were not different from that of open discectomy.

Oxiplex Reduces Leg Pain, Back Pain, and Associated Symptoms After Lumbar Discectomy

SPINE Volume 37, Number 8, pp 631–641

Study Design. Prospective, randomized, blinded clinical trial.

Objective. To evaluate effectiveness of Oxiplex gel for reduction of pain and associated symptoms after lumbar discectomy.

Summary of Background Data. Oxiplex gel (carboxymethylcellulose, polyethylene oxide, and calcium) is used during discectomy to coat the surgical site for reduction of pain and symptoms after lumbar discectomy.

Methods. Patients undergoing single-level lumbar discectomy performed by laminectomy or laminotomy and randomized to receive either surgery plus Oxiplex gel (treatment group) or surgery alone (control group) were assessed 6 months after surgery using (1) a quality of life questionnaire (Lumbar Spine Outcomes Questionnaire [LSOQ]) and (2) clinical evaluations.

Results. There were no statistically significant differences in baseline demographics, surgical procedures, LSOQ scores, and clinical evaluations between treatment (N = 177) and control (N = 175) groups. More gel-treated patients were satisfied with outcome of their surgical treatment than control patients ( P = 0.05). The geltreated group showed greater reductions in pain and symptoms from baseline compared with surgery-only controls. Additional benefits of gel were consistently shown in reduction of leg and back pain at 6 months in the patient population having substantial back  pain at baseline (greater than or equal to the median LSOQ pain score of 63). In that population, there was a statistically signifi cant reduction of leg pain and back pain ( P < 0.01) in the treatment group compared with controls. Fewer patients in the treatment group had abnormal musculoskeletal physical examinations at 6 months compared with controls. There were no cases of cerebrospinal fluid leaks and no differences in laboratory values or vital signs. Patients in the treatment group had less hypoesthesia, paraesthesia, sensory loss, and fewer reoperations during the 6-month follow-up than controls (1 vs . 6).

Conclusion. These data demonstrate improvements in clinical  outcomes resulting from the use of Oxiplex gel in discectomy procedures for treatment of lumbar disc herniation.

Results After Lumbar Decompression With and Without Discectomy: Comparison of the Transspinous and Conventional Approaches

Neurosurgery 66[ONS Suppl 1]:ons152-ons160, 2010 DOI: : 10.1227/01.NEU.0000365826.15986.40

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of the transspinous approach compared with the conventional approach in single-level lumbar laminotomies with and without discectomies.
METHODS: Forty consecutive patients underwent single-level lumbar decompression with or without a discectomy. The first 20 patients underwent surgery by the conventional approach (11 with discectomy and 9 without), and the transspinous approach was used in the remaining 20 patients (11 with discectomy and 9 without). Results between the groups were assessed by comparing the following measures: length of inpatient hospital stay, postoperative pain and analgesia use, estimated blood loss, rate of postoperative disability and complications, and incision length.
RESULTS: The groups did not differ significantly with respect to age, level of pathology, insurance status, or type of analgesia used. The primary outcome was physical disability, measured using the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire. The secondary outcome was pain intensity, measured using the Brief Pain Inventory. Patients who underwent the transspinous approach had better outcomes across all measures with significance appreciated in those who underwent transspinous decompression with discectomies. Other statistically significant differences were identified in incision length and postoperative analgesia use at the end of 1 week. No statistically significant differences were identified in the rates of complications, estimated blood loss, inpatient narcotic analgesia use, or length of inpatient hospital stay.
CONCLUSION: Patients who underwent single-level lumbar decompression with or without discectomy had similar outcomes as those who underwent the conventional approach. Although of modest clinical significance, the transspinous approach may afford early mobilization and reduced postoperative pain while providing a satisfactory neurological and functional outcome.

Economic impact of improving outcomes of lumbar discectomy

The Spine Journal 10 (2010) 108–116.doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2009.08.453

BACKGROUND: Lumbar discectomy is usually a successful operation with a relatively low cost. Potential adjunctive procedures, such as repairing the anulus fibrosus or nucleus replacements, necessitate a cost-benefit analysis.

PURPOSE: This economic analysis was performed to understand the potential value of advanced implantable technologies designed to improve outcomes after discectomy.

STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Using an insurance claims–based database, the economics of lessthan- favorable outcomes after lumbar discectomy were studied. Estimates of improved clinical outcomes because of adjunctive surgical procedural items were modeled.

PATIENT SAMPLE: Using Current Procedural Terminology (CPT-4) codes and International Classification of Diseases, Clinical Modification procedure codes (ICD-9 CM), all lumbar discectomy patients were identified in a 6-month period from a large, 2002, commercially available claims-based data set representing 3.1 million insured lives.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Not applicable.

METHODS: Longitudinal data analysis from 3 years (2002–2004) of the database was performed for evidence of claims after the insured’s discectomy (up to 18 months post) as a utilization estimate of surgical and medical treatment resultant of less-than-favorable outcomes. Incidence and cost of secondary operations, medical management, and complications were determined. Using these inputs, an economic model was generated to estimate the effect of improvement in discectomy outcomes.

RESULTS: Of the 494 patients who had a discectomy within a 6-month period, 137 (28%) had subsequent claims that suggested the outcome was less than favorable within 18 months. Patients whose insurance claims included codes for a second operation (n552 patients with 56 operations; 11%) and patients being medically/nonsurgically managed (n585, 17%) were studied. Average reimbursed charges incurred (2006 dollars) of repeated discectomy (80% of cases) was $6,907 and for arthrodesis (20% of cases) was $24,375. Average additional medical treatment cost to diagnose or manage poor outcome requiring another surgery was $3,365. Procedure-related complications within 40 days of surgery were evident in 15% of the group; with additional average cost to manage of $3,939.

CONCLUSIONS: Substantial cost associated with poor discectomy outcomes is often overlooked or underappreciated. Surgical technologies that can improve outcomes of discectomy by 50% to 70% thus improving patient quality of life can be overall cost-neutral between $971 and $1,655 additionally per patient.