Current Issue - January 2021 - Vol 24 Issue 1


  1. 2021;24;1-15Declining Utilization and Inflation-Adjusted Expenditures for Epidural Procedures in Chronic Spinal Pain in the Medicare Population
    Health Services Research
    Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD, Vidyasagar Pampati, MSc, Amol Soin, MD, Mahendra R. Sanapati, MD, Alan D. Kaye, MD, PhD, and Joshua A. Hirsch, MD.

BACKGROUND: Despite epidurals being one of the most common interventional pain procedures for managing chronic spinal pain in the United States, expenditure analysis lacks assessment in correlation with utilization patterns.

OBJECTIVES: This investigation was undertaken to assess expenditures for epidural procedures in the fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare population from 2009 to 2018.

STUDY DESIGN: The present study was designed to assess expenditures in all settings, for all providers in the FFS Medicare population from 2009 to 2018 in the United States. In this manuscript:

• A patient was described as receiving epidural procedures throughout the year.

• A visit was considered to include all regions treated during the visit.

• An episode was considered as one treatment per region utilizing primary codes only.

• Services or procedures were considered as all procedures including bilateral and multiple levels.

A standard 5% national sample of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) physician outpatient billing claims data for those enrolled in the FFS Medicare program from 2009 to 2018 was utilized. All the expenditures were presented with allowed costs and adjusted to inflation to 2018 US dollars.

RESULTS: Total expenditures were $723,981,594 in 2009, whereas expenditures of 2018 were $829,987,636, with an overall 14.6% increase, or an annual increase of 1.5%. However, the inflation-adjusted rate was $847,058,465 in 2009, compared to $829,987,636 in 2018, a reduction overall of 2% and an annual reduction of 0.2%. Inflation-adjusted per patient annual costs decreased from $988.93 in 2009 to $819.27 in 2018 with a decrease of 17.2% or an annual decline of 2.1%. In addition, inflation-adjusted costs per procedure decreased from $399.77 to $377.94, or 5.5% overall and 0.6% annually.

Per procedure, episode, visit, and patient expenses were higher for transforaminal epidural procedures than lumbar interlaminar/caudal epidural procedures. Overall, costs of transforaminal epidurals increased 27.6% or 2.7% annually, whereas lumbar interlaminar and caudal epidural injections cost were reduced 2.7%, or 0.3% annually. Inflation-adjusted costs for transforaminal epidurals increased 9.1% or 1.0% annually and declined 16.9 or 2.0% annually for lumbar interlaminar and caudal epidural injections.

LIMITATIONS: Expenditures for epidural procedures in chronic spinal pain were assessed only in the FFS Medicare population. This excluded over 30% of the Medicare population, which is enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans.

CONCLUSIONS: After adjusting for inflation, there was a decrease of expenditures for epidural procedures of 2%, or 0.2% annually, from 2009 to 2018. However, prior to inflation, the increases were noted at 14.6% and 1.5%. Inflation-adjusted costs per patient, per visit, and per procedure also declined. The proportion of Medicare patients per 100,000 receiving epidural procedures decreased 9.1%, or 1.1% annually. However, assessment of individual procedures showed higher costs for transforaminal epidural procedures compared to lumbar interlaminar and caudal epidural procedures.

KEY WORDS: Chronic spinal pain, epidural procedures, caudal epidural, lumbar interlaminar epidural, cervical interlaminar epidural, thoracic interlaminar epidural, lumbar transforaminal epidural procedures, Medicare expenditures