The aim of this study was to examine whether routine referral to municipal postoperative rehabilitation is cost-effective in comparison to no referral after surgery for lumbar disc herniation (LDH).
One hundred forty-six patients scheduled for primary discectomy due to LDH were included. This secondary analysis, based on data from a previous randomized controlled trial, compared costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) between two groups of patients recovering from LDH surgery: one group of patients received a referral for municipal physical rehabilitation (REHAB) and the other group was sent home without a referral to any postoperative rehabilitation (HOME). Primary outcomes were QALYs calculated from the EQ-5D utility score, societal costs, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs). The main cost-effectiveness analysis used intention-to-treat data, whereas sensitivity analyses included as-treated data. Questionnaires were collected after 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months postoperatively.
The main cost-effectiveness analysis showed a small, insignificant incremental QALY of 0.021 and an incremental cost of €211.8 for the REHAB group compared to the HOME group, resulting in an ICER of €10,085. In the as-treated sensitivity analysis, the REHAB group had poorer outcomes and higher costs compared to the HOME group.
Routine referral to municipal physical rehabilitation in patients recovering from LDH surgery was not cost-effective compared to no referral.
Clinical trial registration no.: NCT03505918 (clinicaltrials.gov)