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Costs Escalating for Patients With Spine Problems

Expenditures have increased 82 percent since 1997, while health status in patients has declined

TUESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Since 1997, national expenditures for spine conditions have dramatically increased, while self-reported mental and physical health and activity limitations in spine patients have significantly worsened, according to a study in the Sept. 1 issue of Spine.

Brook I. Martin, of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues analyzed 1997 to 2006 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which each year surveyed an average of 1,774 respondents with spine problems.

Between 1997 and 2006, the researchers found that national expenditures for spine problems increased at an average of 7 percent per year, representing a total increase of 82 percent. Although outpatient visits accounted for the largest proportion of total spine-related expenditures, they found that the highest per-user expenditures were for inpatient visits, emergency visits, and prescription services. They note that a 10.2 percent increase per year in prescription medication costs accounted for the largest increase in per-user expenditures.

"The discordance in population-level changes in health status versus spine expenditures raises concerns about value for therapies for spine problems," the authors write. "A greater level of scrutiny may be needed in evaluating established treatments and introducing expensive new spinal technologies. Efforts to control costs must also assure patient safety and effectiveness."

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