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Jack M. Haglin, Kent R. Richter, and Naresh P. Patel

OBJECTIVE

There is currently a paucity of literature evaluating procedural reimbursements and financial trends in neurosurgery. A comprehensive understanding of the economic trends and financial health of neurosurgery is important to ensure the sustained success and growth of the specialty moving forward. The purpose of this study was to evaluate monetary trends of the 10 most common spinal and cranial neurosurgical procedures in Medicare reimbursement rates from 2000 to 2018.

METHODS

The Physician Fee Schedule Look-Up Tool from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was queried for each of the top 10 most utilized Current Procedural Terminology codes in both spinal and cranial neurosurgery, and comprehensive reimbursement data were extracted. The raw percent change in Medicare reimbursement rate from 2000 to 2018 was calculated for each procedure and averaged. This was then compared to the percent change in consumer price index over the same time. Using data adjusted for inflation, trend analysis was performed for all included procedures. Adjusted R-squared and both the average annual and the total percent change in reimbursement were calculated based on these adjusted trends for all included procedures. Likewise, the compound annual growth rate was calculated for all procedures.

RESULTS

When all reimbursement data were adjusted for inflation, the average reimbursement for all procedures decreased by an average of 25.80% from 2000 to 2018. From 2000 to 2018, the adjusted reimbursement rate for all included procedures decreased by an average of 1.59% each year and experienced an average compound annual growth rate of −1.66%, indicating a steady annual decline in reimbursement when adjusted for inflation.

CONCLUSIONS

This is the first study to evaluate comprehensive trends in Medicare reimbursement in neurosurgery. When adjusted for inflation, Medicare reimbursement for all included procedures has steadily decreased from 2000 to 2018, with similar rates of decline observed between cranial and spinal neurosurgery procedures. Increased awareness and consideration of these trends will be important moving forward for policy makers, hospitals, and neurosurgeons as continued progress is made to advance agreeable reimbursement models that allow for the sustained growth of neurosurgery in the United States.

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Eric W. Nottmeier, Robert E. Wharen, and Naresh P. Patel

Iatrogenic spinal arachnoid cysts are rare, but have been described as a complication of spinal injection and lumbar puncture procedures. The authors describe 2 cases of iatrogenic spinal arachnoid cyst formation that occurred after incidental durotomy during lumbar spine surgery. In both cases, postoperative MR imaging revealed compression of the cauda equina by an intradural arachnoid cyst. Intradural exploration and fenestration of the arachnoid cyst was accomplished in each case. This entity should be considered in the differential diagnosis of a patient experiencing symptoms of neurological compression after a lumbar surgery complicated by incidental durotomy.

Open access

Rohin Singh, Miles Hudson, Jenna H. Meyer, Matthew T. Neal, and Naresh P. Patel

BACKGROUND

Hirayama disease (HD), also known as juvenile spinal muscular atrophy, is a rare condition in which flexion of the cervical neck causes compression and ischemic changes to the anterior horns of the spinal cord. Here the authors presented the first reported case of HD in North America that was successfully treated via surgical intervention.

OBSERVATIONS

The patient was a 15-year boy with insidious onset upper limb weakness and atrophy. His findings were a classic presentation of HD although his complex history and relative rarity of the disease caused him to remain undiagnosed for months. After conservative management via cervical collar failed, the patient was successfully treated via C5-C7 anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. The patient’s symptoms stabilized by the 3-month follow-up.

LESSONS

The diagnosis of HD is easy to miss because of the lack of reporting and widespread knowledge of this condition in North America. Thus, when presented with a case of insidious onset limb weakness in a juvenile patient, HD should be placed on the differential list and verified with cervical flexion magnetic resonance imaging. Additionally, surgical intervention should be considered a safe and effective option for HD when conservative methods have failed.

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Naresh P. Patel, Neill M. Wright, William W. Choi, Duncan Q. McBride, and J. Patrick Johnson

Object. Forestier Disease (FD) is a progressive skeletal disorder affecting predominantly older men. It is also known as diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) and is characterized by massive anterior longitudinal ligament calcification that forms a bridge on the anterior border of the thoracic and subaxial cervical spine. To the authors' knowledge, retroodontoid masses associated with FD have not been described.

Methods. Five patients with FD and multilevel subaxial cervical fusion were treated for retroodontoid masses and cervicomedullary junction (CMJ) compression. There were four men and one woman (mean age 73 years, range 54–86 years). All patients suffered progressive neurological symptoms resulting from anterior compression of the CMJ.

Four patients underwent combined transoral resection of the ligamentous mass followed by an occipitocervical fusion procedure. One patient with circumferential CMJ compression underwent a posterior decompression and occipitocervical fusion. Histopathological examination of the mass showed hypertrophic degenerative fibrocartilage. Early postoperative neurological improvement was noted in all patients. The follow-up period ranged from 4 to 19 months. At the end of the follow-up period, four patients experienced neurological improvement. One patient died 3 weeks postsurgery of pulmonary complications.

Conclusions. The osseous elements of the occipitoatlantoaxial complex are not directly affected by FD. The ligamentous structures of the odontoid process, however, are exposed to significantly altered biomechanics resulting from fusion of the subaxial cervical spine associated with FD. Stress-induced compensatory ligamentous hypertrophic changes at the craniovertebral junction cause CMJ compression and subsequent neurological deterioration. This previously undescribed entity should be considered in patients with FD or DISH who present with progressive quadriparesis. Transoral decompression and posterior fusion are often needed in patients with large masses and severe progressive neurological deficits. Selected patients with smaller masses and milder neurological symptoms may be treated with posterior fusion alone.

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Matthew T. Neal, Alexandra E. Richards, Kara L. Curley, Naresh P. Patel, Jonathan B. Ashman, Sujay A. Vora, and Maziyar A. Kalani

OBJECTIVE

The authors aimed to demonstrate the feasibility and advantages of carbon fiber–reinforced PEEK (CFRP) composite implants in patients with both primary and secondary osseous spinal tumors.

METHODS

Twenty-eight spinal tumor patients who underwent fixation with CFRP hardware were retrospectively identified in a Spine Tumor Quality Database at a single institution. Demographic, procedural, and follow-up data were retrospectively collected.

RESULTS

The study population included 14 females and 14 males with a mean age of 60 years (range 30–86 years). Five patients had primary bone tumors, and the remaining patients had metastatic tumors. Breast cancer was the most common metastatic tumor. The most common presenting symptom was axial spine pain (25 patients, 89%), and the most common Spine Instability Neoplastic Score was 7 (range 6–14). Two patients in this series had anterior cervical procedures. The remaining patients underwent posterior thoracolumbar fixation. The average fusion length included 4.6 vertebral segments (range 3–8). The mean clinical follow-up time with surgical or oncology teams was 6.5 months (range 1–23 months), and the mean interval for last follow-up imaging (CT or MRI) was 6.5 months (range 1–22 months). Eighteen patients received postoperative radiation at the authors’ institution (16 with photon therapy, 2 with proton therapy). Eleven of the patients (39%) in this series died. At the last clinical follow-up, 26 patients (93%) had stable or improved neurological function compared with their preoperative status. At the last imaging follow-up, local disease control was observed in 25 patients (89%). Two patients required reoperation in the immediate postoperative period, one for surgical site infection and the other for compressive epidural hematoma. One patient was noted to have lucencies around the most cephalad screws 3 months after surgery. No hardware fracture or malfunction occurred intraoperatively. No patients required delayed surgery for hardware loosening, fracture, or other failure. Early tumor recurrence was detected in 3 patients. Early detection was attributed to the imaging characteristics of the CFRP hardware.

CONCLUSIONS

CFRP spinal implants appear to be safe and comparable to conventional titanium implants in terms of functionality. The imaging characteristics of CFRP hardware facilitate radiation planning and assessment of surveillance imaging. CFRP hardware may enhance safety and efficacy, particularly with particle therapy dosimetry. Larger patient populations with longer-term follow-up are needed to confirm the various valuable aspects of CFRP spinal implants.

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Jack M. Haglin, Michelle A. Zabat, Kent R. Richter, Kade S. McQuivey, Jakub Godzik, Naresh P. Patel, Adam E. M. Eltorai, and Alan H. Daniels

OBJECTIVE

Procedural reimbursement for spine surgery has changed drastically over the past 20 years. A comprehensive understanding of these trends is important as major changes in reimbursement models of spine surgery continue to evolve within various spine specialties as well as broader national healthcare policy. In this study the authors evaluated the monetary trends in Medicare reimbursement rates for the 15 most common spinal surgery procedures from 2000 to 2021.

METHODS

The National Surgery Quality Improvement Project database (2019) was queried to determine the 15 most commonly performed spine surgery procedures. The Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes for each of these procedures were obtained from the Physician Fee Schedule Look-Up Tool from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and comprehensive reimbursement data for each code were extracted. Changes in Medicare reimbursement rates were calculated and averaged for each procedure as both raw percent changes and percent changes adjusted for inflation to 2021 US dollars (USD) based on the consumer price index (CPI). The adjusted R2 value, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR), and both the average annual and the total percent change in reimbursement were calculated based on these adjusted trends for all included procedures.

RESULTS

After adjustment for inflation, average reimbursement for all procedures decreased by 33.8% from 2000 to 2021. The greatest mean decrease was seen in anterior cervical arthrodesis (−38.7%), while the smallest mean decrease was in vertebral body excision (−17.1%). From 2000 to 2021, the adjusted reimbursement rate for all included procedures decreased by an average of 1.9% each year, with an average R2 value of 0.69.

CONCLUSIONS

This is the first study to evaluate monetary trends in Medicare reimbursement for spine surgery procedures. After adjusting for inflation, Medicare reimbursement for the 15 most commonly performed spine procedures has steadily decreased from 2000 to 2021. Increased awareness of these trends and the forces driving them will be critical in the coming years as negotiations regarding reimbursement models continue to unfold. Greater understanding of spine surgery reimbursement among policy makers, hospitals, and surgeons will be important to ensure continued access to quality surgical spine care in the United States.

Open access

Leonardo Kapural, Jessica Jameson, Curtis Johnson, Daniel Kloster, Aaron Calodney, Peter Kosek, Julie Pilitsis, Markus Bendel, Erika Petersen, Chengyuan Wu, Taissa Cherry, Shivanand P. Lad, Cong Yu, Dawood Sayed, Johnathan Goree, Mark K. Lyons, Andrew Sack, Diana Bruce, Frances Rubenstein, Rose Province-Azalde, David Caraway, and Naresh P. Patel

OBJECTIVE

Spinal cord stimulation (SCS) at 10 kHz (10-kHz SCS) is a safe and effective therapy for treatment of chronic low-back pain. However, it is unclear from existing evidence whether these findings can be generalized to patients with chronic back pain that is refractory to conventional medical management (CMM) and who have no history of spine surgery and are not acceptable candidates for spine surgery. The authors have termed this condition "nonsurgical refractory back pain" (NSRBP) and conducted a multicenter, randomized controlled trial to compare CMM with and without 10-kHz SCS in this population.

METHODS

Patients with NSRBP, as defined above and with a spine surgeon consultation required for confirmation, were randomized 1:1 to patients undergoing CMM with and without 10-kHz SCS. CMM included nonsurgical treatment for back pain, according to physicians’ best practices and clinical guidelines. Primary and secondary endpoints included the responder rate (≥ 50% pain relief), disability (Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]), global impression of change, quality of life (EQ-5D-5L), and change in daily opioid use and were analyzed 3 and 6 months after randomization. The protocol allowed for an optional crossover at 6 months for both arms, with observational follow-up over 12 months.

RESULTS

In total, 159 patients were randomized; 76 received CMM, and 69 (83.1%) of the 83 patients who were assigned to the 10-kHz SCS group received a permanent implant. At the 3-month follow-up, 80.9% of patients who received stimulation and 1.3% of those who received CMM were found to be study responders (primary outcome, ≥ 50% pain relief; p < 0.001). There was also a significant difference between the treatment groups in all secondary outcomes at 6 months (p < 0.001). In the 10-kHz SCS arm, outcomes were sustained, including a mean 10-cm visual analog scale score of 2.1 ± 2.3 and 2.1 ± 2.2 and mean ODI score of 24.1 ± 16.1 and 24.0 ± 17.0 at 6 and 12 months, respectively (p = 0.9). In the CMM arm, 74.7% (56/75) of patients met the criteria for crossover and received an implant. The crossover arm obtained a 78.2% responder rate 6 months postimplantation. Five serious adverse events occurred (procedure-related, of 125 total permanent implants), all of which resolved without sequelae.

CONCLUSIONS

The study results, which included follow-up over 12 months, provide important insights into the durability of 10-kHz SCS therapy with respect to chronic refractory back pain, physical function, quality of life, and opioid use, informing the current clinical practice for pain management in patients with NSRBP.