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Jeff Ehresman, Zach Pennington, Andrew Schilling, Ravi Medikonda, Sakibul Huq, Kevin R. Merkel, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Erick M. Westbroek, Salia Farrokh, Steven M. Frank and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Blood transfusions are given to approximately one-fifth of patients undergoing elective lumbar spine surgery, and previous studies have shown that transfusions are accompanied by increased complications and additional costs. One method for decreasing transfusions is administration of tranexamic acid (TXA). The authors sought to evaluate whether the cost of TXA is offset by the decrease in blood utilization in lumbar spine surgery patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed patients who underwent elective lumbar or thoracolumbar surgery for degenerative conditions at a tertiary care center between 2016 and 2018. Patients who received intraoperative TXA (TXA patients) were matched with patients who did not receive TXA (non-TXA patients) by age, sex, BMI, ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) physical status class, and surgical invasiveness score. Primary endpoints were intraoperative blood loss, number of packed red blood cell (PRBC) units transfused, and total hemostasis costs, defined as the sum of TXA costs and blood transfusion costs throughout the hospital stay. A subanalysis was then performed by substratifying both cohorts into short-length (1–4 levels) and long-length (5–8 levels) spinal constructs.

RESULTS

Of the 1353 patients who met inclusion criteria, 68 TXA patients were matched to 68 non-TXA patients. Patients in the TXA group had significantly decreased mean intraoperative blood loss (1039 vs 1437 mL, p = 0.01). There were no differences between the patient groups in the total costs of blood transfusion and TXA (p = 0.5). When the 2 patient groups were substratified by length of construct, the long-length construct group showed a significant net cost savings of $328.69 per patient in the TXA group (p = 0.027). This result was attributable to the finding that patients undergoing long-length construct surgeries who were given TXA received a lower amount of PRBC units throughout their hospital stay (2.4 vs 4.0, p = 0.007).

CONCLUSIONS

TXA use was associated with decreased intraoperative blood loss and significant reductions in total hemostasis costs for patients undergoing surgery on more than 4 levels. Furthermore, the use of TXA in patients who received short constructs led to no additional net costs. With the increasing emphasis put on value-based care interventions, use of TXA may represent one mechanism for decreasing total care costs, particularly in the cases of larger spine constructs.