Study: First-Time Low Back Pain Diagnoses Yield Few Surgeries

But those who opt for surgery over rehabilitation account for abnormally large portion of spending

A recent study found that patients receiving a first-time diagnosis of lower back pain or lower extremity pain can assume a significant economic burden by refusing to following guidelines and receiving surgery before exhausting therapy options.

According to the study, only 1.2 percent of newly diagnosed patients receive surgery in the first 12 months. But at the same time, that group accounted for more than 25 percent of total expenditures within the study.

The primary outcome was a continuous variable denoting total health care depending at 6 and 12 months following a new diagnosis of lower back pain (LBP) or lower extremity pain (LEP). Investigators reported costs according to whether patients received spinal surgery, patterns of conservative management, and types of health care services used. Investigators defined costs as total eligible charges prior to reductions, including both patient and health plan share of payments.

After analysis, investigators found that more than 55 percent of all study patients received no intervention. Patients within the nonsurgical cohort were less likely to:

  • visit primary care practitioners (69.7% versus 93%)
  • physical therapists (6.9% versus 26%)

But they were more likely to:

  • visit chiropractors (12.5% versus 9.3%).

The biggest takeaway was while people who did not receive surgery accounted for 98.8 percent of the study population, they only accounted for 70.8 percent of total spending at 12 months.

SOURCE: MD Magazine

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