The United States has the highest rate of lumbar spine surgery in the world, with rates increasing more than 200% in the last decade. Medicare spends more than $1 billion annually on lumbar spine surgery, and fusion procedures account for almost half of total spending 1).
The most cited paper was found to be the classic paper from 1990 by Boden et al that described magnetic resonance imaging findings in individuals without back pain, sciatica, and neurogenic claudication showing that spinal stenosis and herniated discs can be incidentally found when scanning patients. The second most cited study similarly showed that asymptomatic patients who underwent lumbar spine magnetic resonance imaging frequently had lumbar pathology. The third most cited paper was the 2000 publication of Fairbank and Pynsent reviewing the Oswestry Disability Index, the outcome-measure questionnaire most commonly used to evaluate low back pain. The majority of the papers originate in the United States (n = 58), and most were published in Spine (n = 63). Most papers were published in the 1990s (n = 49), and the 3 most common topics were low back pain, biomechanics, and disc degeneration.
A report identifies the top 100 papers in lumbar spine surgery and acknowledges those individuals who have contributed the most to the advancement of the study of the lumbar spine and the body of knowledge used to guide evidence-based clinical decision making in lumbar spine surgery today 2).
Health care-related costs after lumbar spine surgery vary depending on procedure type and patient characteristics. Age, body mass index (BMI), number of spinal levels, and presence of comorbidities probably have significant effects on overall costs.
In a retrospective review of elective lumbar decompression surgeries, with a focus on specific patient characteristics to determine which factors drive postoperative, hospital-related costs. Records between January 2010 and July 2012 were searched retrospectively. Only elective lumbar decompressions including lumbar discectomy or lumbar laminectomy were included. Cost data were obtained using a database that allows standardization of a list of hospital costs to the fiscal year 2013-2014. The relationship between cost and patient factors including age, BMI, and ASA Score were analyzed using Student t-tests, ANOVA, and multivariate regression analyses.
There were 1201 patients included in the analysis, with a mean age of 61.6 years. Sixty percent of patients in the study were male. Laminectomies were performed in 557 patients (46%) and discectomies in 644 (54%). Laminectomies led to an increased hospital stay of 1.4 days (p < 0.001) and increased hospital costs by $1523 (p < 0.001) when compared with discectomies. For laminectomies, age, BMI, ASA grade, number of levels, and durotomy all led to significantly increased hospital costs and length of stay on univariate analysis, but ASA grade and presence of a durotomy did not maintain significance on multivariate analysis for hospital costs. For a laminectomy, patient age ≥ 65 years was associated with a 0.6-day increased length of stay and a $945 increase in hospital costs when compared with patient age < 65 years (p < 0.001). A durotomy during a laminectomy increased length of stay by 1.0 day and increased hospital costs by $1382 (p < 0.03). For discectomies, age, ASA grade, and durotomy were significantly associated with increased hospital costs on univariate analysis, but BMI was not. Only age and presence of a durotomy maintained significance on multivariate analysis. There was a significant increase in hospital length of stay in patients undergoing discectomy with increasing age, BMI, ASA grade, and presence of a durotomy on univariate analysis. However, only age and presence of a durotomy maintained significance on multivariate analysis. For discectomies, age ≥ 65 years was associated with a 0.7-day increased length of stay (p < 0.001) and an increase of $931 in postoperative hospital costs (p < 0.01) when compared with age < 65 years.
Patient factors such as age, BMI, and comorbidities have significant and measurable effects on the postoperative hospital costs of elective lumbar decompression spinal surgeries. Knowledge of how these factors affect costs will become important as reimbursement models change 3).