Patient Characteristics, Injury Types, and Costs Associated with Secondary Over-Triage of Isolated Cervical Spine Fractures

Joseph Wick, Hai Le, Katherine Wick, Kranti Peddada, Adam Bacon, Gloria Han, Trevor Carroll, Steven Swinford, Yashar Javidan, Rolando Roberto, Allan Martin, Julius Ebinu, Kee Kim, Eric Klineberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Study Design.Retrospective cohort.Objective.To aim of this study was to identify patient variables, injury characteristics, and costs associated with operative and non-operative treatment following inter-facility transfer of patients with isolated cervical spine fractures.Summary of Background Data.Patients with isolated cervical spine fractures are subject to inter-facility transfer for surgical assessment, yet are often treated nonoperatively. The American College of Surgeons' benchmark rate of "secondary over-triage" is <50%. Identifying patient and injury characteristics as well as costs associated with treatment following transfer of patients with isolated cervical spine fractures may help reduce rates of secondary over-triage and healthcare expenditures.Methods.Patients transferred to a Level-1 trauma center with isolated cervical spine fractures between January 2015 and September 2020 were identified. Patient demographics, comorbidities, insurance data, injury characteristics, imaging workup, treatment, and financial data were collected for all patients. Multivariable logistic regression models were constructed to identify patient and injury characteristics associated with surgical treatment.Results.Nearly 75% of patients were treated non-operatively. Over 97% of transfers were accepted by the general surgery trauma service. Multivariable modeling found that higher BMI, presence of any neurologic deficit including spinal cord or isolated spinal nerve root injuries, present smoking status, or cervical spine magnetic resonance imaging obtained post-transfer, were associated with surgical treatment for isolated cervical spine fractures. Among patients with type II dens fractures, increased fracture displacement was associated with surgical treatment. Median charges to patients treated operatively and nonoperatively were $380,890 and $90,734, respectively. Median hospital expenditures for patients treated operatively and nonoperatively were $55,115 and $12,131, respectively.Conclusion.A large proportion of patients with isolated cervical spine fractures are subject to over-triage. Injury characteristics are important for determining need for surgical treatment, and therefore interfacility transfer. Improving communication with spine surgeons when deciding to transfer patients may significantly reduce health care costs and resource use.Level of Evidence: 4.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)414-422
Number of pages9
JournalSpine
Volume47
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2022

Keywords

  • cervical spine
  • comorbidities
  • cost
  • dens fracture
  • expense
  • fracture
  • MRI
  • non-operative
  • operative
  • secondary over-triage
  • telehealth
  • telemedicine
  • transfer
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology

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