The Role of Radiographs and Office Visits in the Follow-Up of Healed Intertrochanteric Hip Fractures: An Economic Analysis

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Abstract

Objectives:

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the role and the necessity of radiographs and office visits obtained during follow-up of intertrochanteric hip injuries.

Design:

Retrospective study.

Setting:

Two level I trauma centers.

Patients:

Four hundred sixty-five elderly patients who were surgically treated for an intertrochanteric fracture of the femur at 2 level I trauma centers between January 2009 and August 2014 were retrospectively identified from orthopaedic trauma databases.

Intervention:

Analysis of all healed intertrochanteric hip fractures, including demographic characteristics, quality of reduction, time of healing, number of office visits, number of radiographs obtained, and each radiograph for fracture alignment, implant position or any pathological changes.

Results:

The surgical fixation of 465 fractures included 155 short nails (33%), 232 long nails (50%), 69 sliding hip screw devices (15%), 7 trochanteric stabilizing plates (1.5%), and 2 proximal femur locking plates (0.5%). The average fracture healing time was 12.8 weeks and the average follow-up was 81.2 weeks. Radiographs of any patient obtained after the fracture had healed did not reveal any changes, including fracture alignment or implant position and hardware failure. In 9 patients, pathological changes, including arthritis (3), avascular necrosis (3), and ectopic ossification (3) were noted. The average number of elective office visits and radiographs obtained after the fracture had healed were 2.8 (range: 1–8) and 2.6 (range: 1–8), respectively. According to Medicare payments to the institution, these radiographs and office visits account for a direct cost of $360.81 and $192, respectively, per patient.

Conclusion:

The current study strongly suggests that there is a negligible role for radiographs and office visits during the follow-up of a well-healed hip fracture when there is documented evidence of radiographic and clinical healing with acceptable fracture alignment and implant position. Implementation of this simple measure will help in reducing the cost of care and inconvenience to elderly patients.

Level of Evidence:

Diagnostic Level IV. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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