The growth of interventional pain management in the new millennium: a critical analysis of utilization in the medicare population

Pain Physician. 2004 Oct;7(4):465-82.


Interventional pain management has been growing by leaps and bounds with the introduction of an array of new CPT codes, the expansion of interventional techniques, and utilization. Interventional pain management dates back to the origin of neural blockade and regional analgesia, in 1884. Over the years, pain medicine and interventional pain management have taken many approaches, including biological, biopsychosocial, and psychosocial. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a new philosophy of precision diagnosis and high-tech management has evolved. An interventional pain physician may be either a reductionist, a monotherapist or a combination of the two. Interventionalists have been criticized for excessive undisciplined application of needle procedures. Interventional techniques are performed by many primary specialists (anesthesiology, physiatry, neurology, etc.) and physicians designated by CMS in interventional pain management (-09) and pain management or pain medicine (-72) which went into effect in 2003 and 2002. Overall, the frequency of utilization of interventional procedures has increased substantially since 1998. It is estimated that among Medicare recipients, the frequency of interventional procedures, which includes epidural, spinal neurolysis, and adhesiolysis procedures; facet joint interventions and sacroiliac joint blocks; and other types of nerve blocks, excluding continuous epidurals, implantables, disc procedures, intraarticular injections, trigger point and ligament injections, had increased by 95% from 1998 to 2003. In the Medicare population, facet joint interventions and sacroiliac joint blocks have increased by 222% from 1998 to 2003. Overall, the utilization of various nerve blocks (excluding epidurals, disc injections, and facet joint blocks) in Medicare recipients from 1998 to 2003 were performed approximately 50% of the time by non-pain physicians. Interventional pain management is growing rapidly, under the watchful eye of the government, and third party payors. Establishing an algorithmic approach and following guidelines may improve compliance and quality of care without implications of abuse.