Management of unilateral cervical radiculopathy in the military: the cost effectiveness of posterior cervical foraminotomy compared with anterior cervical discectomy and fusion

Luis M. Tumialán, Ryan P. Ponton, Wayne M. Gluf

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Object. To review the cost effectiveness for the management of a unilateral cervical radiculopathy with either posterior cervical foraminotomy (PCF) or anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) in military personnel, with a particular focus on time required to return to active-duty service. Methods. Following internal review board approval, the authors conducted a retrospective review of 38 cases in which patients underwent surgical management of unilateral cervical radiculopathy. Nineteen patients who underwent PCF were matched for age, treatment level, and surgeon to 19 patients who had undergone ACDF. Successful outcome was determined by return to full, unrestricted active-duty military service. The difference in time of return to active duty was compared between the groups. In addition, a cost analysis consisting of direct and indirect costs was used to compare the PCF group to the ACDF group. Results. A total of 21 levels were operated on in each group. There were 17 men and 2 women in the PCF group, whereas all 19 patients in the ACDF group were men. The average age at the time of surgery was 41.5 years (range 27-56 years) and 39.3 years (range 24-52 years) for the PCF and ACDF groups, respectively. There was no statistically significant difference in operating room time, estimated blood loss, or postoperative narcotic refills. Complications included 2 cases of transient recurrent laryngeal nerve palsy in the ACDF group. The average time to return to unrestricted full duty was 4.8 weeks (range 1-8 weeks) in the PCF group and 19.6 weeks (range 12-32 weeks) in the ACDF group, a difference of 14.8 weeks (p< 0.001). The direct costs of each surgery were $3570 for the PCF and $10,078 for the ACDF, a difference of $650Based on the 14.8-week difference in time to return to active duty, the indirect cost was calculated to range from $13,586 to $24,045 greater in the ACDF group. Total cost (indirect plus direct) ranged from $20,094 to $30,553 greater in the ACDF group. Conclusions. In the management of unilateral posterior cervical radiculopathy for military active-duty personnel, PCF offers a benefit relative to ACDF in immediate short-term direct and long-term indirect costs. The indirect cost of a service member away from full, unrestricted active duty 14.8 weeks longer in the ACDF group was the main contributor to this difference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010



  • Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion
  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Posterior cervical foraminotomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology

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