MONDAY, April 28, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Treating cervical degenerative disc disease by surgically implanting an artificial vertebrae onto one's spine may cost more initially than a traditional disc fusion operation, but it saves the patient almost $6,000 within two years, according to a new study.
The cost savings is primarily from the patient's ability to return to work sooner after surgery and his or her need for fewer follow-up procedures.
The study -- which was funded by Medtronic, the maker of the artificial cervical disc -- was expected to be presented April 29 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, in Chicago.
More than 200,000 procedures are performed each year in the United States to relieve compression on the spinal cord or nerve roots. The most common involves spinal fusion surgery to unify two or more vertebrae in an effort to strengthen the spine and alleviate chronic neck pain.
A year ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the first, and to date only, artificial cervical disc in certain cervical spine surgeries. Medtronic's PRESTIGE disc is a stainless-steel device with a ball-in-trough design, held in place with bone screws.
Researchers conducting a cost-benefit analysis on 541 patients who received either the artificial cervical disc (arthroplasty) or fusion surgery found arthroplasty saved the patient an average of $5,988 over two years following the surgery.
The cost of initial surgery, secondary procedures and medical devices per patient and the average initial procedure cost were both higher for arthroplasty patients than for fusion patients; however, the artificial disc recipients saved long-term, because they needed fewer secondary procedures and returned to work following surgery an average of 38 days sooner than fusion patients.
The return to work alone yielded a gain in work productivity of $6,368, the report said.
"From a societal perspective, the economic benefits associated with these outcomes may offset the increased device costs associated with arthroplasty therapy," said study presenter Dr. Vincent C. Traynelis, of the University of Iowa, in a prepared statement.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has more about the cervical spine.