The 5 studies that caught readers' attention in 2021


From studies on cost-effectiveness in spine and orthopedic care to the learning curve using surgical robots, here are the studies Becker's covered in 2021 that garnered the most interest from readers:

1. A study published in the March 15 issue of Spine examines whether U.S. News & World Report hospital rankings correlate with cervical fusion outcomes. Study authors examined top hospitals for neurosurgery and orthopedics ranked by U.S. News & World Report from 2010-14.

Charges for a 90-day episode of care were $17,053 more on average for the ranked hospitals. Ranked hospitals also had $1,695 higher average overall costs.

"Despite the higher charges and costs of care at ranked hospitals, these facilities appear to have similar outcomes as compared to unranked hospitals following elective [anterior cervical fusions]," the study authors concluded.

2. When cost-sharing is waived for patients using bundled payment programs for spinal fusion and total joint replacement, surgery costs can decrease by an average of $4,229, or 10.7 percent, according to a study by nonprofit organization Rand Corp.

The study, published March 1 in Health Affairs, examined three procedures for commercially insured patients: spinal fusion, bariatric surgery, and total knee and hip replacement. Spinal fusion procedures saw the biggest cost savings, followed by joint replacement surgery and bariatric surgery.

3. A Thomas Jefferson University study published in Neurosurgery found that lumbar spinal fusions were three times more likely to achieve better outcomes when evidence-based guidelines were followed. Researchers at the Philadelphia-based university examined 325 lumbar fusion cases on whether they conformed to North American Spine Society lumbar fusion guidelines.

4. In a study published in June in the Journal of Spine Surgery, Dr. Lebl and other spine surgeons from Hospital for Special Surgery attempted to determine the learning curve associated with implanting pedicle screws with robotic systems compared to conventional techniques.

For the first several cases, the learning curve showed improvement in screw times, according to the study. The authors said understanding the learning curve and occasions where the robot may be suboptimal can help guide surgeons as well as the increased refinement of robotic technologies.

5. There is a growing consensus that lumbar total disc replacement is a viable option for the treatment of lumbar degenerative disc disease, according to a study published in The Spine Journal. To determine risk factors for reoperation, researchers examined 1,368 patients who underwent lumbar disc replacement at short-, mid- and long-term follow-up. 

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