The unreimbursed costs of preventing revision surgery in adult spinal deformity: Analysis of cost-effectiveness of proximal junctional failure prevention with ligament augmentation

Michael M. Safaee, Cecilia L. Dalle Ore, Corinna C. Zygourakis, Vedat Deviren, Christopher P. Ames

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) is a well-recognized complication of surgery for adult spinal deformity and is characterized by increased kyphosis at the upper instrumented vertebra (UIV). PJK prevention strategies have the potential to decrease morbidity and cost by reducing rates of proximal junctional failure (PJF), which the authors define as radiographic PJK plus clinical sequelae requiring revision surgery. METHODS The authors performed an analysis of 195 consecutive patients with adult spinal deformity. Age, sex, levels fused, upper instrumented vertebra (UIV), use of 3-column osteotomy, pelvic fixation, and mean time to follow-up were collected. The authors also reviewed operative reports to assess for the use of surgical adjuncts targeted toward PJK prevention, including ligament augmentation, hook fixation, and vertebroplasty. The cost of surgery, including direct and total costs, was also assessed at index surgery and revision surgery. Only revision surgery for PJF was included. RESULTS The mean age of the cohort was 64 years (range 25-84 years); 135 (69%) patients were female. The mean number of levels fused was 10 (range 2-18) with the UIV as follows: 2 cervical (1%), 73 upper thoracic (37%), 108 lower thoracic (55%), and 12 lumbar (6%). Ligament augmentation was used in 99 cases (51%), hook fixation in 60 cases (31%), and vertebroplasty in 71 cases (36%). PJF occurred in 18 cases (9%). Univariate analysis found that ligament augmentation and hook fixation were associated with decreased rates of PJF. However, in a multivariate model that also incorporated age, sex, and UIV, only ligament augmentation maintained a significant association with PJF reduction (OR 0.196, 95% CI 0.050-0.774; p = 0.020). Patients with ligament augmentation, compared with those without, had a higher cost of index surgery, but ligament augmentation was overall cost effective and produced significant cost savings. In sensitivity analyses in which we independently varied the reduction in PJF, cost of ligament augmentation, and cost of reoperation by ± 50%, ligament augmentation remained a cost-effective strategy for PJF prevention. CONCLUSIONS Prevention strategies for PJK/PJF are limited, and their cost-effectiveness has yet to be established. The authors present the results of 195 patients with adult spinal deformity and show that ligament augmentation is associated with significant reductions in PJF in both univariate and multivariate analyses, and that this intervention is costeffective. Future studies will need to determine if these clinical results are reproducible, but for high-risk cases, these data suggest an important role of ligament augmentation for PJF prevention and cost savings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE13
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Proximal junctional failure
  • Proximal junctional kyphosis
  • Spinal deformity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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