The purpose of this study was to investigate the cost utility of nonoperative treatment for adult spinal deformity (ASD).
Nonoperatively and operatively treated patients who met database criteria for ASD and in whom complete radiographic and health-related quality of life data at baseline and at 2 years were available were included. A cost analysis was completed on the PearlDiver database assessing the average cost of nonoperative treatment prior to surgical intervention based on previously published treatments (NSAIDs, narcotics, muscle relaxants, epidural steroid injections, physical therapy, and chiropractor). Utility data were calculated using the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) converted to SF-6D with published conversion methods. Quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) used a 3% discount rate to account for residual decline in life expectancy (78.7 years). Minor and major comorbidities and complications were assessed according to the CMS.gov manual’s definitions. Successful nonoperative treatment was defined as a gain in the minimum clinically importance difference (MCID) in both ODI and Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)–pain scores, and failure was defined as a loss in MCID or conversion to operative treatment. Patients with baseline ODI ≤ 20 and continued ODI of ≤ 20 at 2 years were considered nonoperative successful maintenance. The average utilization of nonoperative treatment and cost were applied to the ASD cohort.
A total of 824 patients were included (mean age 58.24 years, 81% female, mean body mass index 27.2 kg/m2). Overall, 75.5% of patients were in the operative and 24.5% were in the nonoperative cohort. At baseline patients in the operative cohort were significantly older, had a greater body mass index, increased pelvic tilt, and increased pelvic incidence–lumbar lordosis mismatch (all p < 0.05). With respect to deformity, patients in the operative group had higher rates of severe (i.e., ++) sagittal deformity according to SRS–Schwab modifiers for pelvic tilt, sagittal vertical axis, and pelvic incidence–lumbar lordosis mismatch (p < 0.05). At 2 years, patients in the operative cohort showed significantly increased rates of a gain in MCID for physical component summary of SF-36, ODI, and SRS-activity, SRS-pain, SRS-appearance, and SRS-mental scores. Cost analysis showed the average cost of nonoperative treatment 2 years prior to surgical intervention to be $2041. Overall, at 2 years patients in the nonoperative cohort had again in ODI of 0.36, did not show a gain in QALYs, and nonoperative treatment was determined to be cost-ineffective. However, a subset of patients in this cohort underwent successful maintenance treatment and had a decrease in ODI of 1.1 and a gain in utility of 0.006 at 2 years. If utility gained for this cohort was sustained to full life expectancy, patients’ cost per QALY was $18,934 compared to a cost per QALY gained of $70,690.79 for posterior-only and $48,273.49 for combined approach in patients in the operative cohort.
Patients with ASD undergoing operative treatment at baseline had greater sagittal deformity and greater improvement in health-related quality of life postoperatively compared to patients treated nonoperatively. Additionally, patients in the nonoperative cohort overall had an increase in ODI and did not show improvement in utility gained. Patients in the nonoperative cohort who had low disability and sagittal deformity underwent successful maintenance and cost-effective treatment.