The Economic Burden of Musculoskeletal Disease in Children and Adolescents in the United States

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Abstract

Background:

Musculoskeletal conditions are among the most common and costly conditions suffered by Americans. In 2011, there was an estimated $213 billion in annual cost of direct treatment for and lost wages due to musculoskeletal disease in the United States. Data on economic burden, however, comes mostly from the adult population, with significantly less information regarding the burden of these conditions in young patients available. The purpose of this report is to provide data on the economic burden of musculoskeletal diseases in children and adolescents in the United States.

Methods:

Eleven diagnosis categories were identified, with health care visits and hospitalization data derived from ICD-9-CM codes for each of the conditions searched. The largest database utilized was the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID). Total visits came from the KID, HCUP NEDS (emergency department), NCHS NHAMCS OP (outpatient), and NCHS NAMCS (physician office) databases. The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) child sample was additionally searched to obtain patient/parent-reported data.

Results:

In 2012, more than 19 million children and adolescents received treatment in medical centers, physicians’ offices, and hospitals for a musculoskeletal-related condition. The most common reason for treatment (68%) was traumatic injury, followed by a pain syndrome (13%) and deformity (9%). Total hospital charges in 2012 for children and adolescents with a primary musculoskeletal-related diagnosis totaled $7.6 billion. Trauma (43%) and deformity (38%) were the major contributors to total hospital charges.

Conclusions:

Although we found that hospital-related charges for musculoskeletal diseases for children and adolescents in 2012 totaled $7.6 billion, this number underestimates the total cost for all pediatric musculoskeletal conditions. Musculoskeletal conditions accounted for 5.4% of hospital charges in the pediatric population. However, only 1.4% of pediatric research funding is designated to musculoskeletal research. Going forward, the data in this report may be used to further research and to stimulate development of better methods with which to measure the direct and indirect costs of musculoskeletal conditions in children.

Level of Evidence:

Level IV—economic and decision analysis.

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