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Zachary S. Hubbard, Tsun Yee Law, Samuel Rosas, Sarah C. Jernigan and Harvey Chim

OBJECTIVE

The epidemiology of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) has been extensively researched. However, data describing the economic burden of CTS is limited. The purpose of this study was to quantify the disease burden of CTS and determine the economic benefit of its surgical management.

METHODS

The authors utilized the PearlDiver database to identify the number of individuals with CTS in the Medicare patient population, and then utilized CPT codes to identify which individuals underwent surgical management. These data were used to calculate the total number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) associated with CTS. A human capital approach was employed and gross national income per capita was used to calculate the economic burden.

RESULTS

From 2005 to 2012 there were 1,500,603 individuals identified in the Medicare patient population with the diagnosis of CTS. Without conservative or surgical management, this results in 804,113 DALYs without age weighting and discounting, and 450,235 DALYs with age weighting and a discount rate of 3%. This amounts to between $21.8 and $39 billion in total economic burden, or $2.7–$4.8 billion per year. Surgical management of CTS has resulted in the aversion of 173,000–309,000 DALYs. This has yielded between $780 million and $1.6 billion in economic benefit per year. Endoscopic carpal tunnel release provided between $11,683 and $23,186 per patient at 100% success while open carpal tunnel release provided between $10,711 and $22,132 per patient at 100% success. The benefit-cost ratio at its most conservative is 2.7:1, yet could be as high as 6.9:1.

CONCLUSIONS

CTS is prevalent in the Medicare patient population, and is associated with a large amount of economic burden. The surgical management of CTS leads to a large reduction in this burden, yielding extraordinary economic benefit.

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Zachary S. Hubbard, Fraser Henderson Jr., Rocco A. Armonda, Alejandro M. Spiotta, Robert Rosenbaum and Fraser Henderson Sr.

On a Sunday morning at 06:22 on October 23, 1983, in Beirut, Lebanon, a semitrailer filled with TNT sped through the guarded barrier into the ground floor of the Civilian Aviation Authority and exploded, killing and wounding US Marines from the 1st Battalion 8th Regiment (2nd Division), as well as the battalion surgeon and deployed corpsmen. The truck bomb explosion, estimated to be the equivalent of 21,000 lbs of TNT, and regarded as the largest nonnuclear explosion since World War II, caused what was then the most lethal single-day death toll for the US Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II. Considerable neurological injury resulted from the bombing. Of the 112 survivors, 37 had head injuries, 2 had spinal cord injuries, and 9 had peripheral nerve injuries. Concussion, scalp laceration, and skull fracture were the most common cranial injuries.

Within minutes of the explosion, the Commander Task Force 61/62 Mass Casualty Plan was implemented by personnel aboard the USS Iwo Jima. The wounded were triaged according to standard protocol at the time. Senator Humphreys, chairman of the Preparedness Committee and a corpsman in the Korean War, commented that he had never seen such a well-executed evolution. This was the result of meticulous preparation that included training not only of the medical personnel but also of volunteers from the ship’s company, frequent drilling with other shipboard units, coordination of resources throughout the ship, the presence of a meticulous senior enlisted man who carefully registered each of the wounded, the presence of trained security forces, and a drilled and functioning communication system.

Viewed through the lens of a neurosurgeon, the 1983 bombings and mass casualty event impart important lessons in preparedness. Medical personnel should be trained specifically to handle the kinds of injuries anticipated and should rehearse the mass casualty event on a regular basis using mock-up patients. Neurosurgery staff should participate in training and planning for events alongside other clinicians. Training of nurses, corpsmen, and also nonmedical personnel is essential. In a large-scale evolution, nonmedical personnel may monitor vital signs, work as scribes or stretcher bearers, and run messages. It is incumbent upon medical providers and neurosurgeons in particular to be aware of the potential for mass casualty events and to make necessary preparations.