3D graphic of the spine

Aarhus University Hospital and health economists work together in a national project to map out the most cost-effective spine treatments.

An impressive research project from Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University has mapped out the most cost effective treatments for selected spine diseases.

Health economists, rehabilitation experts and spine surgeons have worked together to shed light on all phases of spine surgeries. As a part of the research project, new treatments have been introduced for herniated disk, spine fracture and cancer which has spread to the spine.

The research shows that so-called fast-track rehabilitation after stabilizing spine surgery – accelerated rehabilitation where the aim is to return to activities fast after surgery – does not work compared to traditional modest rehab started after 3 months.

- These patients need more health services and fast-track rehabilitation is therefore not the best solution from a patient and health economic perspective The body needs more time to heal before the patients start using their back again, says Cody Bünger, Director of the project, consultant at the Department of Orthopeadic Surgery and professor in spine surgery at Aarhus University.

The best treatments have been found by measuring both results and cost-effectiveness, based on national economic registries and quality of life surveys. This combination gives the best evidence and makes it possible to compare the cost-effectiveness of different medical treatments i.e. costs related to changes in quality of life.

Scoliosis surgery works
The project showed that surgery in patients with scoliosis – patients with spine deformaties and/or osteoarthritis – is cost-effective.

- We see positive results in this type of surgery; after the operation these patients have less contacts to the healthcare system and constitute a smaller economic strain on society.

High age and presence of other diseases than spine diseases in selected patients did not influence the extent of the economic burden. Generally, the project showed that unemployed and low-educated people were large-scale consumers of health services – also after spine surgery

A considerable strain in the future
Spine diseases are among the most important causes of absenteeism from work, early retirement and reduced quality of life. In one year, 40% of all Danes will experience back pain and half of them will contact the healthcare system to get treatment. The annual costs amount to DKK 10 billion.

The number of spine diseases increases concurrently with the increasing number of elderly citizens. It is expected that there will be an increasing number of patients with osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, osteoporosis collapse and spread of cancer to the spine – all serious diseases often demanding surgery. The researchers at Aarhus University Hospital and Aarhus University work on new surgical procedures minimising surgical trauma and number of complications.

Further information:
Cody Bünger, Professor, Consultant, DMSci, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark
Tel.. +45 40 35 69 47, e-mail: codybung@yahoo.com