Cost analysis of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis surgery: early discharge decreases hospital costs much less than intraoperative variables under the control of the surgeon

Brandon L. Raudenbush, David P. Gurd, Ryan C. Goodwin, Thomas E. Kuivila, R. Tracy Ballock


Background: Spinal fusion surgery for the treatment of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS) is increasing. Health systems and surgeons are decreasing hospital length of stay (LOS) to decrease costs. The purpose of this study was to review the contribution of an accelerated discharge protocol on the total cost of a single episode of care related to the surgical treatment of AIS at a single institution.
Methods: A retrospective cost analysis was performed over an 18-month period, from January 2014 through June 2015, before and after the institution of an accelerated discharge program. Patients treated surgically with ICD-9 code 737.30 (Idiopathic Scoliosis) were reviewed. Itemized costs and LOS were analyzed collectively and by surgeon before and after the accelerated discharge protocol.
Results: Eighty AIS patients were treated surgically. The accelerated discharge program significantly reduced average LOS from 4.2 days in 2014 to 3.3 days during the first 6 months of 2015 (P≤0.05). There were no increases in complications. There was a 9% decrease in the total average costs per episode of care. A weighted average, a relative average change in costs, and an average cost savings per case were calculated for 12 different categories. Average Surgical Services and Nursing costs decreased during the study period while all other costs increased. The accelerated discharge program did not directly contribute significantly to this decrease in costs. Greatest cost reduction was associated with average bone graft and pedicle screw cost, with an overall 8.5% reduction in pedicle screw use and a 58% reduction in bone graft costs.
Conclusions: Intraoperative variables under the direct control of the surgeon contribute much more to cost reduction than an accelerated discharge program for surgically treated AIS patients.