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Cost-effectiveness of three treatment strategies for lumbar spinal stenosis: Conservative care, laminectomy, and the Superion interspinous spacer

Scott L. Parker, MD,1 Louise H. Anderson, PhD,2 Teresa Nelson, MS,2 Vikas V. Patel MD, MA, BSME3

1Department of Neurosurgery, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville TN, 2Technomics Research, Minneapolis MN, 3University of Colorado Hospital, Denver CO



Lumbar spinal stenosis is a painful and debilitating condition resulting in healthcare costs totaling tens of billions of dollars annually. Initial treatment consists of conservative care modalities such as physical therapy, NSAIDs, opioids, and steroid injections. Patients refractory to these therapies can undergo decompressive surgery, which has good long-term efficacy but is more traumatic and can be associated with high post-operative adverse event (AE) rates. Interspinous spacers have been developed to offer a less-invasive alternative. The objective of this study was to compare the costs and quality adjusted life years (QALYs) gained of conservative care (CC) and decompressive surgery (DS) to a new minimally-invasive interspinous spacer.


A Markov model was developed evaluating 3 strategies of care for lumbar spinal stenosis. If initial therapies failed, the model moved patients to more invasive therapies. Data from the Superion FDA clinical trial, a prospective spinal registry, and the literature were used to populate the model. Direct medical care costs were modeled from 2014 Medicare reimbursements for healthcare services. QALYs came from the SF-12 PCS and MCS components. The analysis used a 2-year time horizon with a 3% discount rate.


CC had the lowest cost at $10,540, while Spacers and DS were nearly identical at about $13,950. CC also had the lowest QALY increase (0.06), while Spacers and DS were again nearly identical (.28). The incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICER) for Spacers compared to CC was $16,300 and for DS was $15,200.


Both the Spacer and DS strategies are far below the commonly cited $50,000/QALY threshold and produced several times the QALY increase versus CC, suggesting that surgical care provides superior value (cost / effectiveness) versus sustained conservative care in the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis.

cost effectiveness, QALY, interspinous spacer, intermittent neurogenic claudication, Laminectomy, Lumbar spinal stenosis, decompressive surgery, Superion
Volume 9 Article 28