In degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM) pathologies in which there exists a clinical equipoise in approach selection, a randomized controlled trial found that an anterior approach did not significantly improve patient-reported outcomes compared with posterior approaches. In this era of value and bundled payment initiatives, the cost profiles of various surgical approaches will form an important consideration in decision-making. The objective of this study was to compare 90-day and 2-year reimbursements for ≥ 2-level (multilevel) anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (mACDF), anterior cervical corpectomy and fusion (ACCF), posterior cervical laminectomy and fusion (LF), and cervical laminoplasty (LP) performed for DCM.
The IBM MarketScan research database (2005–2018) was used to study beneficiaries 30–75 years old who underwent surgery using four approaches (mACDF, ACCF, LF, or LP) for DCM. Demographics, index surgery length of stay (LOS), complications, and discharge disposition were compared. Index admission (surgeon, hospital services, operating room) and postdischarge inpatient (readmission, revision surgery, inpatient rehabilitation), outpatient (imaging, emergency department, office visits, physical therapy), and medication-related payments were described. Ninety-day and 2-year bundled payment amounts were simulated for each procedure. All payments are reported as medians and interquartile ranges (IQRs; Q1–Q3) and were adjusted to 2018 US dollars.
A total of 10,834 patients, with a median age of 54 years, were included. The median 90-day payment was $46,094 (IQR $34,243–$65,841) for all procedures, with LF being the highest ($64,542) and LP the lowest ($37,867). Index hospital payment was 62.4% (surgery/operating room 46.6%) and surgeon payments were 17.5% of the average 90-day bundle. There were significant differences in the index, 90-day, and 2-year reimbursements and their distribution among procedures.
In a national cohort of patients undergoing surgery for DCM, LP had the lowest complication rate and simulated bundled reimbursements at 90 days and 2 years postoperatively. The lowest quartile 90-day payment for LF was more expensive than median amounts for mACDF, ACCF, and LP. If surgeons encounter scenarios of clinical equipoise in practice, LP is likely to result in maximum value because it is 70% less expensive on average than LF over 90 days.