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Arjun Vivek Pendharkar, Maryam Nour Shahin, Allen Lin Ho, Eric Scott Sussman, David Arnold Purger, Anand Veeravagu, John Kevin Ratliff and Atman Mukesh Desai

Spine surgery is a key target for cost reduction within the United States health care system. One possible strategy involves the transition of inpatient surgeries to the ambulatory setting. Lumbar laminectomy with or without discectomy, lumbar fusion, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, and cervical disc arthroplasty all represent promising candidates for outpatient surgeries in select populations. In this focused review, the authors clarify the different definitions used in studies describing outpatient spine surgery. They also discuss the body of evidence supporting each of these procedures and summarize the proposed cost savings. Finally, they examine several patient- and surgeon-specific considerations to highlight the barriers in translating outpatient spine surgery into actual practice.

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Arjun Vivek Pendharkar, Paymon Garakani Rezaii, Allen Lin Ho, Eric Scott Sussman, David Arnold Purger, Anand Veeravagu, John Kevin Ratliff and Atman Mukesh Desai

OBJECTIVE

There has been considerable debate about the utility of the operating microscope in lumbar discectomy and its effect on outcomes and cost.

METHODS

A commercially available longitudinal database was used to identify patients undergoing discectomy with or without use of a microscope between 2007 and 2015. Propensity matching was performed to normalize differences between demographics and comorbidities in the 2 cohorts. Outcomes, complications, and cost were subsequently analyzed using bivariate analysis.

RESULTS

A total of 42,025 patients were identified for the “macroscopic” group, while 11,172 patients were identified for the “microscopic” group. For the propensity-matched analysis, the 11,172 patients in the microscopic discectomy group were compared with a group of 22,340 matched patients who underwent macroscopic discectomy. There were no significant differences in postoperative complications between the groups other than a higher proportion of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the macroscopic discectomy cohort versus the microscopic discectomy group (0.4% vs 0.2%, matched OR 0.48 [95% CI 0.26–0.82], p = 0.0045). Length of stay was significantly longer in the macroscopic group compared to the microscopic group (mean 2.13 vs 1.83 days, p < 0.0001). Macroscopic discectomy patients had a higher rate of revision surgery when compared to microscopic discectomy patients (OR 0.92 [95% CI 0.84–1.00], p = 0.0366). Hospital charges were higher in the macroscopic discectomy group (mean $19,490 vs $14,921, p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS

The present study suggests that the use of the operating microscope in lumbar discectomy is associated with decreased length of stay, lower DVT rate, lower reoperation rate, and decreased overall hospital costs.