Variation in Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Surgery: Implications for Improving Healthcare Value

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ObjectivesTo investigate the variation in care and cost of spinal fusion for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), and to identify opportunities for improving healthcare value.Study designRetrospective cohort study from the Pediatric Health Information Systems database, including children 11–18 years of age with AIS who underwent spinal fusion surgery between 2004 and 2015. Multivariable regression was used to evaluate the relationships between hospital cost, patient outcomes, and resource use.ResultsThere were 16 992 cases of AIS surgery identified. There was marked variation across hospitals in rates of intensive care unit admission (0.5%-99.2%), blood transfusions (0%-100%), surgical complications (1.8%-32.3%), and total hospital costs ($31 278-$90 379). Hospital cost was 32% higher at hospitals that most frequently admitted patients to the intensive care unit (P = .009), and 8% higher for each additional 25 operative cases per hospital (P = .003). Hospital duration of stay was shorter for patients admitted to hospitals with highest intensive care unit admission rates and higher surgical volumes. There was no association between cost and duration of stay, 30-day readmission, or surgical complications. The largest contribution to hospital charges was supplies (55%). Review of a single hospital's detailed cost accounting system also found supplies to be the greatest single contributor to cost, the majority of which were for spinal implants, accounting for 39% of total hospital costs.ConclusionsThe greatest contribution to AIS surgery cost was supplies, the majority of which is likely attributed to spinal implant costs. Opportunities for improving healthcare value should focus on controlling costs of spinal instrumentation, and improving quality of care with standardized treatment protocols.

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