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Michael H. Weber, Lojan Sivakumaran, Maryse Fortin, Alisson R. Teles, Jeff D. Golan, Carlo Santaguida, Peter Jarzem and Thierry Pauyo

OBJECTIVE

The cost of spine management is rising. As diagnostic imaging accounts for approximately 10% of total patient care spending, there is interest in determining if economies could be made with regard to the routine consultation of radiology for image interpretation. In the context of spine trauma, both the spine surgeon and the radiologist interpret perioperative imaging. Authors of the present study investigated the impact of radiologist interpretation of perioperative imaging from patients with traumatic single-level thoracolumbar fractures given that spine surgeons are expected to be comfortable interpreting pathologies of the musculoskeletal system.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective review of all patients presenting with a single-level thoracolumbar fracture treated at the McGill University Health Centre in the period from January 2003 to December 2010. The time between image capture and radiologist interpretation as well as the number of extraskeletal and/or incidental findings was extracted from the radiology reports on all perioperative images including radiographic, fluoroscopic, and CT images. The cost of interpretation was obtained from the provincial health insurance entity of Quebec.

RESULTS

Eighty-two patients met the study inclusion criteria. Radiologists took a median of 1 day (IQR 0–5.5 days) to interpret preoperative radiographs. Intraoperative fluoroscopic images and postoperative radiographs were read by the radiologist a median of 19 days (IQR 4–56.75 days) and 34 days (IQR 1–137.5 days) after capture, respectively (p < 0.05). Preoperative radiologist dictations reported extraskeletal and/or incidental findings for 8.1% of radiographs; there were no intraoperative or postoperative extraskeletal findings beyond those previously reported on the preoperative radiographs. Radiologists took a median of 1 day (IQR 0–1 day) to read both preoperative and postoperative CT scans; extraskeletal and/or incidental findings were present in 46.2% of preoperative reports and 4.5% of postoperative reports. There were no intraoperative or postoperative radiological findings that provoked reoperation. A total of 66 intraoperative fluoroscopy images and 225 postoperative radiographs were read for a cost of $1399.20 and $1867.50 (Canadian dollars), respectively, for radiologist interpretation. This cost amounted to 40.3% of all perioperative image interpretation spending.

CONCLUSIONS

In the management of single-level thoracolumbar fractures, radiologists add information to the diagnostic picture when interpreting preoperative radiographs and perioperative CT scans; however, the interpretation of intraoperative fluoroscopic images and postoperative radiographs comes with significant delay, does not add additional information, and represents an area of potential cost and professional-resource reduction.

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Alisson R. Teles, Michael Paci, Gabriel Gutman, Fahad H. Abduljabbar, Jean A. Ouellet, Michael H. Weber and Jeff D. Golan

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to evaluate the anatomical and surgical risk factors for screw-related facet joint violation at the superior level in lumbar fusion.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective review of a consecutive series of posterior lumbar instrumented fusions performed by a single surgeon. Inclusion criteria were primary lumbar fusion of 1 or 2 levels for degenerative disorders. The following variables were analyzed as possible risk factors: surgical technique (percutaneous vs open screw placement), depth of surgical field, degree of anterior slippage of the superior level, pedicle and facet angle, and facet degeneration of the superior level. Postoperative CT scans were evaluated by 2 independent reviewers. Axial, sagittal, and coronal views were reviewed. Pedicle screws were graded as intra-articular if they clearly interposed between the superior and inferior facet joints of the superior level. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to assess the factors associated with this complication.

RESULTS

One hundred thirty-one patients were included. Interobserver reliability for facet joint violation assessment was high (κ = 0.789). The incidence of superior facet joint violation was 12.59% per top-level screw (33 of 262 proximal screws). The rate of facet violation was 28.0% in the percutaneous technique group (14 of 50 patients) and 12.3% in the open surgery group (10 of 81 patients) (OR 2.26, 95% CI 1.09–4.21; p = 0.024). In multivariate logistic regression analysis, independent predictors of facet violation were percutaneous screw placement (adjusted OR 3.31, 95% CI 1.42–7.73; p = 0.006), right-side pedicle screw (adjusted OR 3.14, 95% CI 1.29–7.63; p = 0.011), and facet angle > 45° (adjusted OR 10.95, 95% CI 4.64–25.84; p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS

The incidence of facet joint violation was higher in percutaneous minimally invasive than in open technique for posterior lumbar spine surgery. Also, coronal orientation of the facet joint is a significant risk factor independent of the surgical technique.

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Asdrubal Falavigna, Nicolas Scheverin, Orlando Righesso, Alisson R. Teles, Maria Carolina Gullo, Joseph S. Cheng and K. Daniel Riew

OBJECT

Lumbar discectomy is one of the most common surgical spine procedures. In order to understand the value of this surgical care, it is important to understand the costs to the health care system and patient for good results. The objective of this study was to evaluate for the first time the cost-effectiveness of spine surgery in Latin America for lumbar discectomy in terms of cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained for patients in Brazil.

METHODS

The authors performed a prospective cohort study involving 143 consecutive patients who underwent open discectomy for lumbar disc herniation (LDH). Patient-reported outcomes were assessed utilizing the SF-6D, which is derived from a 12-month variation of the SF-36. Direct medical costs included medical reimbursement, costs of hospital care, and overall resource consumption. Disability losses were considered indirect costs. A 4-year horizon with 3% discounting was applied to health-utilities estimates. Sensitivity analysis was performed by varying utility gain by 20%. The costs were expressed in Reais (R$) and US dollars ($), applying an exchange rate of 2.4:1 (the rate at the time of manuscript preparation).

RESULTS

The direct and indirect costs of open lumbar discectomy were estimated at an average of R$3426.72 ($1427.80) and R$2027.67 ($844.86), respectively. The mean total cost of treatment was estimated at R$5454.40 ($2272.66) (SD R$2709.17 [$1128.82]). The SF-6D utility gain was 0.044 (95% CI 0.03197–0.05923, p = 0.017) at 12 months. The 4-year discounted QALY gain was 0.176928. The estimated cost-utility ratio was R$30,828.35 ($12,845.14) per QALY gained. The sensitivity analysis showed a range of R$25,690.29 ($10,714.28) to R$38,535.44 ($16,056.43) per QALY gained.

CONCLUSIONS

The use of open lumbar discectomy to treat LDH is associated with a significant improvement in patient outcomes as measured by the SF-6D. Open lumbar discectomy performed in the Brazilian supplementary health care system provides a cost-utility ratio of R$30,828.35 ($12,845.14) per QALY. The value of acceptable cost-effectiveness will vary by country and region.