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Spencer Twitchell, Michael Karsy, Jared Reese, Jian Guan, William T. Couldwell, Andrew Dailey and Erica F. Bisson


Efforts to examine the value of care—combining both costs and quality—are gaining importance in the current health care climate. This thrust is particularly evident in treating common spinal disease where both incidences and costs are generally high and practice patterns are variable. It is often challenging to obtain direct surgical costs for these analyses, which hinders the understanding of cost drivers and cost variation. Using a novel tool, the authors sought to understand the costs of posterior lumbar arthrodesis with interbody devices.


The Value Driven Outcomes (VDO) database at the University of Utah was used to evaluate the care of patients who underwent open or minimally invasive surgery (MIS), 1- and 2-level lumbar spine fusion (Current Procedural Terminology code 22263). Patients treated from January 2012 through June 2017 were included.


A total of 276 patients (mean age 58.9 ± 12.4 years) were identified; 46.7% of patients were men. Most patients (82.2%) underwent 1-level fusion. Thirteen patients (4.7%) had major complications and 11 (4.1%) had minor complications. MIS (β = 0.16, p = 0.002), length of stay (β = 0.47, p = 0.0001), and number of operated levels (β = 0.37, p = 0.0001) predicted costs in a multivariable analysis. Supplies and implants (55%) and facility cost (36%) accounted for most of the expenditure. Other costs included pharmacy (7%), laboratory (1%), and imaging (1%).


These results provide direct cost accounting for lumbar fusion procedures using the VDO database. Efforts to improve the value of lumbar surgery should focus on high cost areas, i.e., facility and supplies/implant.