Intersurgeon Cost Variability in Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion

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Study Design.

Retrospective review of prospective patient outcomes and cost data.


To analyze the contribution of surgeon-specific variability in cost and patient-reported outcomes (PROs) to overall variability in anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), whereas adjusting for patient comorbidities.

Summary of Background Data.

Cost reduction in surgical care has received increased attention. Patient factors contributing to cost variability in ACDF have been described; however, intersurgeon cost and outcome variability has received less attention in the literature.


Adult patients undergoing elective primary ACDF by five different surgeons were analyzed from a prospective registry database. Direct and indirect 90-day costs were compared across each surgeon, along with PROs. Predicted costs were calculated based on patient co-morbidities, and an “observed versus expected” cost differential was measured for each surgeon; this O/E cost ratio was then compared with PROs.


A total of 431 patients were included in the analysis. There were no differences in comorbidities, age, smoking status, or narcotic use. There was significant variation between surgeons in total 90-day costs, as well as variation between each surgeon's observed versus expected cost ratio. Despite these surgeon-specific cost variations, there were no differences in PROs across the participating surgeons.


Intersurgeon cost variation in elective ACDF persists even after adjusting for patient comorbidities. There was no apparent correlation between increased surgeon-specific costs and 90-day PROs. These findings show there is opportunity for improvement in inter-surgeon cost variation without compromise in PROs.


Level of Evidence: 3

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