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Cost-effectiveness of radiofrequency neurotomy to treat zygapophysial joint pain compared with pain rehabilitation programs

  • Hambraeus, Johan
  • Norström, Fredrik
  • Lindholm, Lars
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2022
DOI: 10.1016/j.inpm.2022.100147
DiVA - Academic Archive On-line
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Background: Chronic pain is a widespread condition that causes much suffering and significant cost to society. Pain rehabilitation programs (REH) have dominated the treatment of chronic pain in Sweden in recent decades. Although radiofrequency neurotomy (RFN) was cost-effective in recent studies, the long-term health and economic effects of REH have not been comprehensively evaluated.DesignObservational study with propensity score weighting to compare RFN and REH. Methods: Patients assessed and treated between 2010 and 2016 were eligible; 15,357 underwent REH and 254 underwent RFN. Patient data were combined with linked data from national registers. We used propensity score weighting to mimic a randomized controlled trial using baseline gender, age, and baseline health-related quality of life as covariates. Results: Health-related quality of life improved significantly in both groups, by 0.164 and 0.352 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) at 1 and 2 years after REH, and by 0.186 and 0.448 QALYs after RFN. The assessment and diagnostic procedures were slightly more expensive for RFN, but the treatment costs were greater for REH. Sick leave decreased after treatment in both groups, particularly after RFN. The cost per QALY gained 1 year after REH was ∼121,633 USD, which is considered “very expensive” according to the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. By comparison, the cost of RFN was ∼13,715 USD, in the “moderate” range. After 2 years the cost per QALY gained was in the “moderate” range for REH and “low” for RFN. Conclusions: RFN and REH improved health-related quality of life, with significantly greater improvement with RFN. The treatments were comparable based on propensity score weighting, and RFN was cost-effective in the moderate to low range, whereas REH was considered very expensive to moderate. Expanding RFN from 2% currently to 25% of the treatments given in Sweden could save ∼21.2 million USD annually in healthcare expenditure.

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