This study examines the indirect costs associated with surgery for axial low back pain using data obtained from a prospective multicenter clinical trial that compared Charité artificial disc replacement with anterior lumbar interbody fusion using iliac crest bone graft. While 75% of study subjects reported full- or part-time employment prior to surgery, this percentage dropped to 45% at 6 weeks postoperatively. Return to preoperative employment levels occurred at approximately 6 months postoperatively. Two years after surgery, employment levels were 16% higher than preoperative levels. Lost productivity related to absenteeism resulted in lost wages averaging $2884 per patient during the first postoperative year. Although short-term indirect costs of surgery are substantial from a societal perspective, the higher employment rate at 2 years suggests a long-term economic benefit. The findings demonstrate the significant, though not surprising, impact of spinal disability on productivity, and the importance of including measurement of lost productivity and return to work in the economic evaluation of related interventions.
Fayssoux, Reginald; Goldfarb, Neil I; Vaccaro, Alexander R; and Harrop, James, "Indirect costs associated with surgery for low back pain-a secondary analysis of clinical trial data." (2010). College of Population Health Faculty Papers. Paper 58.