Impact of nonoperative treatment, vertebroplasty, and kyphoplasty on survival and morbidity after vertebral compression fracture in the medicare population

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Background: The treatment of vertebral compression fractures with vertebral augmentation procedures is associated with acute pain relief and improved mobility, but direct comparisons of treatments are limited. Our goal was to compare the survival rates, complications, lengths of hospital stay, hospital charges, discharge locations, readmissions, and repeat procedures for Medicare patients with new vertebral compression fractures that had been acutely treated with vertebroplasty, kyphoplasty, or nonoperative modalities. Methods: The 2006 Medicare Provider Analysis and Review File database was used to identify 72,693 patients with a vertebral compression fracture. Patients with a previous vertebral compression fracture, those who had had a vertebral augmentation procedure in the previous year, those with a diagnosis of malignant neoplasm, and those who had died were excluded, leaving 68,752 patients. The patients were stratified into nonoperative treatment (55.6%), vertebroplasty (11.2%), and kyphoplasty (33.2%) cohorts. Survival rates were compared with use of Kaplan-Meier analysis and Cox regression. Results were adjusted for potential confounding variables. Secondary parameters of interest were analyzed with the chi-square test (categorical variables) and one-way analysis of variance (continuous variables), with the level of significance set at p < 0.05. Results: The estimated three-year survival rates were 42.3%, 49.7%, and 59.9% for the nonoperative treatment, vertebroplasty, and kyphoplasty groups, respectively. The adjusted risk of death was 20.0% lower for the kyphoplasty group than for the vertebroplasty group (hazard ratio = 0.80, 95% confidence interval, 0.77 to 0.84). Patients in the kyphoplasty group had the shortest hospital stay and the highest hospital charges and were the least likely to have had pneumonia and decubitus ulcers during the index hospitalization and at six months postoperatively. However, kyphoplasty was more likely to result in a subsequent augmentation procedure than was vertebroplasty (9.41% compared with 7.89%; p < 0.001). Conclusions: Vertebral augmentation procedures appear to be associated with longer patient survival than nonoperative treatment does. Kyphoplasty tends to have a more striking association with survival than vertebroplasty does, but it is costly and may have a higher rate of subsequent vertebral compression fracture. These provocative findings may reflect selection bias and should be addressed in a prospective, direct comparison of methods to treat vertebral compression fractures. Level of Evidence: Therapeutic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1729-1736
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Bone and Joint Surgery - Series A
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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