Objective: To examine the incidence, prevalence, resource use, and costs associated with branch retinal vein occlusion (BRVO) and central retinal vein occlusion (CRVO) in elderly patients.
Research design and methods: In a retrospective cohort study of a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries from 2001 through 2006, the authors identified patients with BRVO (n = 10,682) and CRVO (n = 6236) and controls with hypertension (n = 49,524) and glaucoma (n = 49,569) but no retinal vein occlusion. Incident cases were those with no claims listing a diagnosis for the same type of retinal vein occlusion in the previous 12 months. Prevalence was defined as the number of beneficiaries with a diagnosis of BRVO or CRVO. The authors summed Medicare reimbursements for all claims and used generalized linear models to estimate the effects of BRVO and CRVO on 1-year and 3-year costs compared with hypertension and glaucoma control groups. The authors also examined trends in the use of diagnostic and treatment modalities.
Main outcome measures: Resource use (fluorescein angiography, optical coherence tomography, intravitreal injection, laser photocoagulation, and vitrectomy) and direct medical costs (total Medicare reimbursement amounts as recorded on each inpatient, outpatient, home health, skilled nursing, hospice, durable medical equipment, and professional service claim) at 1 year and 3 years.
Results: After adjustment for baseline characteristics, BRVO was associated with 16% higher 1-year costs and 12% higher 3-year costs compared with hypertension and 18% higher 1-year costs and 13% higher 3-year costs compared with glaucoma. CRVO was associated with 22% higher 1-year costs and 15% higher 3-year costs compared with hypertension and 24% higher 1-year costs and 16% higher 3-year costs compared with glaucoma. Use of fluorescein angiography and optical coherence tomography increased during the study. Use of intravitreal injections increased from less than 1% of patients overall to greater than 13% for BRVO and 16% for CRVO. The incidence of BRVO declined slightly during the study period, whereas the incidence of CRVO remained relatively flat. Prevalence increased in both groups.
Limitations: The results may not be generalizable to younger patients or managed-care beneficiaries. The study included only direct costs to Medicare, not nonmedical expenditures or outpatient prescription medications. Diagnosis and procedure codes may not have been complete. The study could not account for clinical variables, such as the amount of vision loss. It was not feasible to adjust for whether one or both eyes were affected or treated.
Conclusions: Although not common in the Medicare population, BRVO and CRVO are important independent predictors of total medical costs. Diagnostic and treatment modalities have changed over time.