5 key points on cost-effectiveness of perioperative thoracolumbar fracture imaging

Laura Dyrda -   Print  |

A new study published in the Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine examined the cost of radiologists interpreting the images of patients with traumatic single-level thoracolumbar fractures to determine whether the reports are effective.


Study authors conducted a retrospective review of patients who underwent single-level thoracolumbar fracture treatment at Montreal, Canada-based McGill University Health Centre from January 2003 to December 2010. There were 82 patients participating in the study.


Key findings from the review include:


1. The median amount of time it took radiologists to interpret preoperative radiographs was one day; intraoperative fluoroscopic images and postoperative radiographs were read by the radiologists within 19 and 34 days, respectively.


2. There were perioperative dictations for extraskeletal and/or incidental findings among 8.1 percent of the radiographs, but no new findings on the intraoperative radiographs when compared with the preoperative radiographs.


3. Preoperative and postoperative CT scans were read within one day on average and radiologists reported extraskeletal and/or incidental findings in 46.2 percent of perioperative reports as well as 4.5 percent of postoperative reports.


4. None of the intraoperative or postoperative radiographs led to reoperations.


5. For the entire study period, radiologists charged $1,867.50 to read the 225 postoperative radiographs and $1,399.20 to read the 66 intraoperative fluoroscopy images. Together, these costs represented 40.3 percent of all perioperative image interpretation spending.


"In the management of single-level thoracolumbar fractures, radiologists add information to diagnostic pictures when interpreting preoperative radiographs and perioperative CT scans; however, the interpretation of intraoperative fluoroscopic images and postoperative radiographs comes with significant delay, does not add additional information, and represents an area of potential cost and professional-resource reduction," concluded the study authors.


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