Trends in the treatment of lumbar spine fractures in the United States: a socioeconomics perspective

Clinical article

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The objective of this study was to investigate a national health care database and analyze demographics, hospital charges, and treatment trends of patients diagnosed with lumbar spine fractures in the US over a 5-year period.


Clinical data were derived from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) for the years 2003 through 2007. The NIS is maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and represents a 20% random stratified sample of all discharges from nonfederal hospitals within the US. Patients with lumbar spine fractures were identified using the appropriate ICD-9-CM code. Data on the number of vertebral body augmentation procedures were also retrieved. National estimates of discharges, hospital charges, discharge patterns, and treatment with spinal fusion trends were retrieved and analyzed.


More than 190,000 records of patients with lumbar spine fractures were abstracted from the database. During the 5-year period, there was a 17% increase in hospitalizations for lumbar spine fractures. This was associated with a 27% increase in hospital charges and a 55% increase in total national charges (both adjusted for inflation). The total health care bill associated with lumbar spine fractures in 2007 exceeded 1 billion US dollars. During this same time period, there was a 24% increase in spinal fusions for lumbar fractures, which was associated with a 15% increase in hospital charges. The ratio of spinal fusions to hospitalizations (surgical rate) during this period, however, was stable with an average of 7.4% over the 5-year period. There were an estimated 13,000 vertebral body augmentation procedures for nonpathological fractures performed in 2007 with a total national bill of 450 million US dollars.


An increasing trend of hospitalizations, surgical treatment, and charges associated with lumbar spine fractures was observed between 2003 and 2007 on a national level. This trend, however, does not appear to be as steep as that of surgical utilization in degenerative spine disease. Furthermore, the ratio of spinal fusions to hospitalizations for lumbar fractures appears to be stable, possibly indicating no significant changes in indications for surgical intervention over the time period studied.

Abbreviations used in this paper: HCUP = Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project; NIS = Nationwide Inpatient Sample.

Article Information

Address correspondence to: Ali A. Baaj, M.D., Department of Neurosurgery, University of South Florida, 2A Columbia Drive, Tampa, Florida 33606. email:

Please include this information when citing this paper: published online July 8, 2011; DOI: 10.3171/2011.5.SPINE10934.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



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    Line graphs demonstrating trends in hospitalizations (A), spinal fusions (B), charges for spinal fusions (C), and surgical rates (D) for lumbar fractures from 2003 to 2007.



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