Spinal procedures are increasingly conducted as outpatient procedures, with a growing proportion conducted in ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). To date, studies reporting outcomes and cost analyses for outpatient spinal procedures in the US have not distinguished the various outpatient settings from each other. In this study, the authors used a state-level administrative database to compare rates of overnight stays and nonroutine discharges as well as index admission charges and cumulative 7-, 30-, and 90-day charges for patients undergoing outpatient lumbar decompression in freestanding ASCs and hospital outpatient (HO) settings.
For this project, the authors used the Florida State Ambulatory Surgery Database (SASD), offered by the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), for the years 2013 and 2014. Patients undergoing outpatient lumbar decompression for degenerative diseases were identified using CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) and ICD-9 codes. Outcomes of interest included rates of overnight stays, rate of nonroutine discharges, index admission charges, and subsequent admission cumulative charges at 7, 30, and 90 days. Multivariable analysis was performed to assess the impact of outpatient type on index admission charges. Marginal effect analysis was employed to study the difference in predicted dollar margins between ASCs and HOs for each insurance type.
A total of 25,486 patients were identified; of these, 7067 patients (27.7%) underwent lumbar decompression in a freestanding ASC and 18,419 (72.3%) in an HO. No patient in the ASC group required an overnight stay compared to 9.2% (n = 1691) in the HO group (p < 0.001). No clinically significant difference in the rate of nonroutine discharge was observed between the two groups. The mean index admission charge for the ASC group was found to be significantly higher than that for the HO group ($35,017.28 ± $14,335.60 vs $33,881.50 ± $15,023.70; p < 0.001). Patients in ASCs were also found to have higher mean 7-day (p < 0.001), 30-day (p < 0.001), and 90-day (p = 0.001) readmission charges. ASC procedures were associated with increased charges compared to HO procedures for patients on Medicare or Medicaid (mean index admission charge increase $4049.27, 95% CI $2577.87–$5520.67, p < 0.001) and for patients on private insurance ($4775.72, 95% CI $4171.06–$5380.38, p < 0.001). For patients on self-pay or no charge, a lumbar decompression procedure at an ASC was associated with a decrease in index admission charge of −$10,995.38 (95% CI −$12124.76 to −$9866.01, p < 0.001) compared to a lumbar decompression procedure at an HO.
These “real-world” results from an all-payer statewide database indicate that for outpatient spine surgery, ASCs may be associated with higher index admission and subsequent 7-, 30-, and 90-day charges. Given that ASCs are touted to have lower overall costs for patients and better profit margins for physicians, these analyses warrant further investigation into whether this cost benefit is applicable to outpatient spine procedures.