Operative Fixation for Clavicle Fractures—Socioeconomic Differences Persist Despite Overall Population Increases in Utilization

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Abstract

Background:

Clavicle fractures were traditionally treated conservatively, but recent evidence has shown improved outcomes with surgical management. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the recent trends in operative treatment of clavicle fractures, and to analyze for patient related factors that may affect treatment strategy.

Methods:

The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) California and Florida inpatient, outpatient, and the Emergency Department databases were used to identify all patients with clavicle fractures between 2005 and 2010. We evaluated the overall number of procedures over the study period and calculated the rates of operative and nonoperative treatment by tracking a large cohort of emergency department patients with clavicle fractures. Poisson and multivariable regression were used to identify trends and patient factors associated with treatment.

Results:

There was a 290% increase in the annual number clavicle fracture procedures over the study period. The rate of fixation increased from 3.7% to 11.1% (P < 0.001). Significant increases were seen in all patient age groups less than 65 years. Comparatively, higher rates of fixation were found in patients who were white, privately insured, and of high-income status. Lower income status was also associated with delayed surgery.

Conclusions:

The rates of clavicle fracture fixation have increased. However, there are differences associated with socioeconomic factors including race, insurance type, and income level. In part, this likely representing both underutilization and overutilization but may also show differential access to care. This differential utilization suggests both that further work is needed to more clearly define indications for operative versus nonoperative management and to further evaluate referral systems and access to care to ensure equal and quality treatment is available for all patients.

Level of Evidence:

Prognostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

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