Neurosurg Focus, May 2018

A scoping review on health economics in neurosurgery for acute spine trauma.

Chan BCF, Craven BC, Furlan JC.


OBJECTIVE. Acute spine trauma (AST) has a relatively low incidence, but it often results in substantial individual impairments and societal economic burden resulting from the associated disability. Given the key role of neurosurgeons in the decision-making regarding operative management of individuals with AST, the authors performed a systematic search with scoping synthesis of relevant literature to review current knowledge regarding the economic burden of AST.

METHODS. This systematic review with scoping synthesis included original articles reporting cost-effectiveness, cost-utility, cost-benefit, cost-minimization, cost-comparison, and economic analyses related to surgical management of AST, whereby AST is defined as trauma to the spine that may result in spinal cord injury with motor, sensory, and/or autonomic impairment. The initial literature search was carried out using MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, CCTR, and PubMed. All original articles captured in the literature search and published from 1946 to September 27, 2017, were included. Search terms used were the following: (cost analysis, cost effectiveness, cost benefit, economic evaluation or economic impact) AND (spine or spinal cord) AND (surgery or surgical).

RESULTS. The literature search captured 5770 titles, of which 11 original studies met the inclusion/exclusion criteria. These 11 studies included 4 cost-utility analyses, 5 cost analyses that compared the cost of intervention with a comparator, and 2 studies examining direct costs without a comparator. There are a few potentially cost-saving strategies in the neurosurgical management of individuals with AST, including 1) early surgical spinal cord decompression for acute traumatic cervical spinal cord injury (or traumatic thoracolumbar fractures, traumatic cervical fractures); 2) surgical treatment of the elderly with type-II odontoid fractures, which is more costly but more effective than the nonoperative approach among individuals with age at AST between 65 and 84 years; 3) surgical treatment of traumatic thoracolumbar spine fractures, which is implicated in greater direct costs but lower general-practitioner visit costs, private expenditures, and absenteeism costs than nonsurgical management; and 4) removal of pedicle screws 1-2 years after posterior instrumented fusion for individuals with thoracolumbar burst fractures, which is more cost-effective than retaining the pedicle screws.

CONCLUSIONS. This scoping synthesis underscores a number of potentially cost-saving opportunities for neurosurgeons when managing patients with AST. There are significant knowledge gaps regarding the potential economic impact of therapeutic choices for AST that are commonly used by neurosurgeons.


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