Spinal Surgeon Variation in Single-Level Cervical Fusion Procedures: A Cost and Hospital Resource Utilization Analysis

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2017 Jul 1;42(13):1031-1038. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0000000000001962.


Study design: Retrospective analysis.

Objective: To compare perioperative costs and outcomes of patients undergoing single-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusions (ACDF) at both a service (orthopedic vs. neurosurgical) and individual surgeon level.

Summary of background data: Hospital systems are experiencing significant pressure to increase value of care by reducing costs while maintaining or improving patient-centered outcomes. Few studies have examined the cost-effectiveness cervical arthrodesis at a service level.

Methods: A retrospective review of patients who underwent a primary 1-level ACDF by eight surgeons (four orthopedic and four neurosurgical) at a single academic institution between 2013 and 2015 was performed. Patients were identified by Diagnosis-Related Group and procedural codes. Patients with the ninth revision of the International Classification of Diseases coding for degenerative cervical pathology were included. Patients were excluded if they exhibited preoperative diagnoses or postoperative social work issues affecting their length of stay. Comparisons of preoperative demographics were performed using Student t tests and chi-squared analysis. Perioperative outcomes and costs for hospital services were compared using multivariate regression adjusted for preoperative characteristics.

Results: A total of 137 patients diagnosed with cervical degeneration underwent single-level ACDF; 44 and 93 were performed by orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, respectively. There was no difference in patient demographics. ACDF procedures performed by orthopedic surgeons demonstrated shorter operative times (89.1 ± 25.5 vs. 96.0 ± 25.5 min; P = 0.002) and higher laboratory costs (Δ+$6.53 ± $5.52 USD; P = 0.041). There were significant differences in operative time (P = 0.014) and labor costs (P = 0.034) between individual surgeons. There was no difference in total costs between specialties or individual surgeons.

Conclusion: Surgical subspecialty training does not significantly affect total costs of ACDF procedures. Costs can, however, vary between individual surgeons based on operative times. Variation between individual surgeons highlights potential areas for improvement of the cost effectiveness of spinal procedures.

Level of evidence: 4.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cervical Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Female
  • Health Resources / economics*
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospital Costs* / standards
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fusion / economics*
  • Spinal Fusion / standards
  • Surgeons / economics*
  • Surgeons / standards