Is Total Disk Replacement a Cost-effective Treatment for Cervical Degenerative Disk Disease?

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Study Design:A retrospective study.Objective:The objective of this study was to assess the cost-effectiveness and clinical outcome of motion-preserving versus fusion procedures in cervical spine surgery.Summary of Background Data:During the last decade there has been a huge growth in spine surgery with a concurrent increase in the economic burden. Currently, there appear to be no differences in clinical outcome between cervical total disk replacement (TDR) and spinal fusion (SF). For this reason it seems useful to know within the decision-making process whether there is a difference in actual cost between motion-preserving and fusion surgery. So far data that describe expenses involved in these procedures have not been available. This study offers a comparison of economic factors that should be considered in TDR and SF.Materials and Methods:The German statutory general healthcare insurance (GHI) provides anonymized patient-related data of their customers. A retrospective query using the codes of surgery of all TDR and SF surgery was performed from January 2003 to June 2008. A total of 467 cases with monosegmental or bisegmental surgery for degenerative disk pathologies were included.Results:Both groups showed significant differences in independent variables such as age and sex (P<0.0001), but not in revision rates. Cost weight of diagnosis-related groups and length of hospitalization had a significant effect on total costs. Both groups obtained less pain medication postoperatively than preoperatively without a significant difference between each group. Postoperative absenteeism from work was significantly higher in the TDR group;however, patients with TDR underwent less rehabilitation covered by the GHI. Both groups had the same amount of preoperative and postoperative physiotherapy covered by the GHI.Conclusions:According to the collected data, there are no differences between the medical outcomes of cervical TDR in comparison with cervical SF. At the same time, while generating clinical results comparable with spinal fusion, TDR incurred significantly lower costs. Therefore, both from the medical and from the financial point of view, TDR is a viable choice in the treatment of degenerative disk pathology.

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