Current Issue - March/April 2020 - Vol 23 Issue 2


  1. 2020;23;E133-E149Update of Utilization Patterns of Facet Joint Interventions in Managing Spinal Pain from 2000 to 2018 in the US Fee-for-Service Medicare Population
    Health Policy Review
    Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD, Mahendra R. Sanapati, MD, Vidyasagar Pampati, MSc, Amol Soin, MD, Sairam Atluri, MD, Alan D. Kaye, MD, PhD, Joysree Subramanian, MD, and Joshua A. Hirsch, MD.

BACKGROUND: Interventional techniques for managing spinal pain, from conservative modalities to surgical interventions, are thought to have been growing rapidly. Interventional techniques take center stage in managing chronic spinal pain. Specifically, facet joint interventions experienced explosive growth rates from 2000 to 2009, with a reversal of these growth patterns and in some settings, a trend of decline after 2009.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this assessment of utilization patterns include providing an update of facet joint interventions in managing chronic spinal pain in the fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare population of the United States from 2000 to 2018.

STUDY DESIGN: The study was designed to assess utilization patterns and variables of facet joint interventions in managing chronic spinal pain from 2000 to 2018 in the FFS Medicare population in the United States.

METHODS: Data for the analysis were obtained from the master database from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) physician/supplier procedure summary from 2000 to 2018.

RESULTS: Facet joint interventions increased 1.9% annually and 18.8% total from 2009 to 2018 per 100,000 FFS Medicare population compared with an annual increase of 17% and overall increase of 309.9% from 2000 to 2009.

Lumbosacral facet joint nerve block sessions or visits decreased at an annual rate of 0.2% from 2009 to 2018, with an increase of 15.2% from 2000 to 2009. In contrast, lumbosacral facet joint neurolysis sessions increased at an annual rate of 7.4% from 2009 to 2018, and the utilization rate also increased at an annual rate of 23.0% from 2000 to 2009. The proportion of lumbar facet joint blocks sessions to lumbosacral facet joint neurolysis sessions changed from 6.7 in 2000 to 1.9 in 2018. Cervical and thoracic facet joint injections increased at an annual rate of 0.5% compared with cervicothoracic facet neurolysis sessions of 8.7% from 2009 to 2018. Cervical facet joint injections increased to 4.9% from 2009 to 2018 compared with neurolysis procedures of 112%. The proportion of cervical facet joint injection sessions to neurolysis sessions changed from 8.9 in 2000 to 2.4 in 2018.

LIMITATIONS: This analysis is limited by inclusion of only the FFS Medicare population, without adding utilization patterns of Medicare Advantage plans, which constitutes almost 30% of the Medicare population.

The utilization data for individual states also continues to be sparse and may not be accurate.

CONCLUSIONS: Utilization patterns of facet joint interventions increased 1.9% per 100,000 Medicare population from 2009 to 2018. This results from an annual decline of - 0.2% lumbar facet joint injection sessions but with an increase of facet joint radiofrequency sessions of 7.4%.

KEY WORDS: Interventional techniques, facet joint interventions, facet joint nerve blocks, facet joint neurolysis