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Spinal Surgery Appears to Be Cost-Effective Choice

Compared to non-operative treatment, herniation operation costlier, but better for quality of life

THURSDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Surgical treatment of lumbar disc herniation was more costly than non-operative care but offered better health outcomes in subsequent years, making it a moderately cost-effective choice, according to research published in the Sept. 1 issue of Spine.

Anna N.A. Tosteson, of Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H., and colleagues analyzed data from adults with intervertebral disc herniation, including 775 who underwent surgery and 416 who were treated with non-operative care. Patients were followed-up periodically for 24 months.

Health state values over two years, as measured by quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained, improved for both groups, but with a difference favoring the surgical patients (1.64 versus 1.44), the researchers report. The mean difference in total cost was an additional $14,137 for surgical patients. The cost per QALY gained with surgery was relatively favorable compared with the economic value of other types of health interventions, the authors write.

"Changing trends in spine surgery in the United States, combined with continued escalation in health care expenditures, highlights the importance of understanding the economic value of common surgical intervention. To date, relative to spinal fusion, the economic value of surgery for disc herniation has received relatively little attention. Our comprehensive analysis suggests that surgical treatment of herniated disc represents a reasonably cost-effective health care intervention when compared with other common health care interventions," the authors conclude.

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