Costs and State-Specific Rates of Thoracic and Lumbar Vertebroplasty, 2001–2005

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Study Design.Sequential cross-sectional analysis.Objective.To document vertebroplasty rates and costs.Summary of Background Data.Little is known about interstate variation in rates or about nation-wide costs associated with the growing use of percutaneous vertebroplasty.Methods.Using specific CPT-4 billing codes, we reviewed aggregate Medicare Part B fee-for-service claims data (cross-stratified by physician specialty and treatment setting) on thoracolumbar vertebroplasties performed from 2001–2005. Vertebroplasty rates for individual states were expressed per 100,000 Part B fee-for-service enrollees. Nation-wide facility and physician charges (combining expected contributions from all sources) allowed by Medicare for vertebroplasties and associated imaging guidance procedures were applied to observed vertebroplasty volumes. These charges (reflecting direct medical costs from an all-payer perspective) were expressed in 2005 dollars using the Producer Price Index.Results.Vertebroplasty rates for individual states rose but varied considerably, ranging from 0.0 to 515.6/100,000 Medicare Part B fee-for-service enrollees in 2001 (median state rate = 35.4), and from 9.8 to 849.5 in 2005 (median state rate = 75.0). On average, 1.3 vertebral levels were treated per procedure, varying by treatment site and physician specialty. Fluoroscopic rather than computed tomography guidance was used in 98.7% of cases. Total nation-wide inflation-adjusted charges rose from $76.0 million for 14,142 cases performed in 2001 to $152.3 million for 29,090 cases in 2005. While vertebroplasty was predominantly an outpatient procedure, inpatient cases generated most of the charges. Increasing volumes and costs were associated with cases performed in ambulatory surgery centers and physicians’ offices.Conclusion.Nation-wide vertebroplasty volumes and inflation-adjusted charges doubled from 2001 to 2005 in this Medicare population. Procedure rates varied considerablyby state. Almost all cases involved fluoroscopic guidance; procedures treating multiple vertebral levels were not uncommon. Procedures performed in free-standing facilities are of growing importance. Given the issues surrounding appropriate vertebroplasty use, future practice patterns and outcomes should be closely tracked.

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