The primary goal of this study was to review the immediate postoperative neurological function in patients surgically treated for symptomatic cervical spine disease without intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring. The secondary goal was to assess the economic impact of intraoperative monitoring (IOM) in this patient population.
This study is a retrospective review of 720 consecutively treated patients who underwent cervical spine procedures. The patients were identified and the data were collected by individuals who were not involved in their care.
A total of 1534 cervical spine levels were treated in 720 patients using anterior, posterior, and combined (360°) approaches. Myelopathy was present preoperatively in 308 patients. There were 185 patients with increased signal intensity within the spinal cord on preoperative T2-weighted MR images, of whom 43 patients had no clinical evidence of myelopathy. Three patients (0.4%) exhibited a new neurological deficit postoperatively. Of these patients, 1 had a preoperative diagnosis of radiculopathy, while the other 2 were treated for myelopathy. The new postoperative deficits completely resolved in all 3 patients and did not require additional treatment. The Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes for IOM during cervical decompression include 95925 and 95926 for somatosensory evoked potential monitoring of the upper and lower extremities, respectively, as well as 95928 and 95929 for motor evoked potential monitoring of the upper and lower extremities. In addition to the charge for the baseline [monitoring] study, patients are charged hourly for ongoing electrophysiology testing and monitoring using the CPT code 95920. Based on these codes and assuming an average of 4 hours of monitoring time per surgical case, the savings realized in this group of patients was estimated to be $1,024,754.
With the continuing increase in health care costs, it is our responsibility as providers to minimize expenses when possible. This should be accomplished without compromising the quality of care to patients. This study demonstrates that decompression and reconstruction for symptomatic cervical spine disease without IOM may reduce the cost of treatment without adversely impacting patient safety.