Cost variation in temporizing external fixation of tibial plateau fractures
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BACKGROUND: Rising health care expenditures and declining reimbursements have generated interest in providing interventions of value. The use of external fixation is a commonly used intermediate procedure for the staged treatment of unstable fractures. External fixator constructs can vary in design and costs based on selected component configuration. The objective of this study was to evaluate cost variation and relationships to injury and noninjury characteristics in temporizing external fixation of tibial plateau fractures. We hypothesize that construct costs are highly variable and present no noticeable patterns with both injury and noninjury characteristics. METHODS: A retrospective review of tibial plateau fractures treated with initial temporizing external fixation between 2010 and 2016 at 2 Level I trauma centers was conducted. Fracture and patient characteristics including age, body mass index, AO/OTA classification, and Schatzker fracture classification were observed with construct cost. In addition, injury-independent characteristics of surgeon education, site of procedure, and date of procedure were evaluated with construct cost. Factors associated with cost variation were assessed using nonparametric comparative and goodness-of-fit regression tests. RESULTS: Two hundred twenty-one patient cases were reviewed. The mean knee spanning fixator construct cost was $4947 (95% confidence interval = $4742-$5152). The overall range in construct costs was from $1848 to $11,568. The mean duration of use was 16.4 days. No strong correlations were noted between construct cost and patient demographics (r = 0.02), fracture characteristics (r = 0.02), or injury-independent characteristics (r = 0.10). Finally, there was no significant difference between constructs of traumatologists and other orthopaedic surgeon subspecialists (P = 0.12). CONCLUSIONS: Temporizing external fixation of tibial plateau is a high-cost intervention per unit of time and exhibits massive variation in the mean cost. This presents an ideal opportunity for cost savings by reducing excessive variation in implant component selection. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Level III. Retrospective Cohort.
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