Effects of the Length of Stay on the Cost of Total Knee and Total Hip Arthroplasty from 2002 to 2013

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Background:Utilization of total knee and hip arthroplasty has greatly increased in the past decade in the United States; these are among the most expensive procedures in patients with Medicare. Advances in surgical techniques, anesthesia, and care pathways decrease hospital length of stay. We examined how trends in hospital cost were altered by decreases in length of stay.Methods:Procedure, demographic, and economic data were collected on 6.4 million admissions for total knee arthroplasty and 2.8 million admissions for total hip arthroplasty from 2002 to 2013 using the National (Nationwide) Inpatient Sample, a component of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. Trends in mean hospital costs and their association with length of stay were estimated using inflation-adjusted, survey-weighted generalized linear regression models, controlling for patient demographic characteristics and comorbidity.Results:From 2002 to 2013, the length of stay decreased from a mean time of 4.06 to 2.97 days for total knee arthroplasty and from 4.06 to 2.75 days for total hip arthroplasty. During the same time period, the mean hospital cost for total knee arthroplasty increased from $14,988 (95% confidence interval [CI], $14,927 to $15,049) in 2002 to $22,837 (95% CI, $22,765 to $22,910) in 2013 (an overall increase of $7,849 or 52.4%). The mean hospital cost for total hip arthroplasty increased from $15,792 (95% CI, $15,706 to $15,878) in 2002 to $23,650 (95% CI, $23,544 to $23,755) in 2013 (an increase of $7,858 or 49.8%). If length of stay were set at the 2002 mean, the growth in cost for total knee arthroplasty would have been 70.8% instead of 52.4% as observed, and the growth in cost for total hip arthroplasty would have been 67.4% instead of 49.8% as observed.Conclusions:Hospital costs for joint replacement increased from 2002 to 2013, but were attenuated by reducing inpatient length of stay. With demographic characteristics showing an upward trend in the utilization of joint arthroplasty, including a shift toward younger population groups, reduction in length of stay remains an important target for procedure-level cost containment under emerging payment models.

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