European Spine Journal

, Volume 15, Issue 8, pp 1165–1173 | Cite as

Health economic evaluation in lumbar spinal fusion: a systematic literature review anno 2005

  • Rikke SoegaardEmail author
  • Finn B. Christensen
Review Article


The goal of this systematic literature review was to assess the evidence for cost-effectiveness of various surgical techniques in lumbar spinal fusion in conformity with the guidelines provided by the Cochrane Back Review Group. As new technology continuously emerges and divergent directions in clinical practice are present, economic evaluation is needed in order to facilitate the decision-makers’ budget allocations. NHS Economic Evaluation Database, MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Library were searched. Two independent reviewers (one clinical content expert and one economic content expert) applied the eligibility criteria. A list of criteria for methodological quality assessment was established by merging the criteria recommended by leading health economists with the criteria recommended by the Cochrane Back Review Group. The two reviewers independently scored the selected literature and the disagreement was resolved by means of consensus following discussion. Key data were extracted and the level of evidence concluded. Seven studies were eligible; these studies reflected the diversified choices of economic methodology, study populations (diagnosis), outcome measures and comparators. At the conclusion of quality assessment, the methodological quality of three studies was judged credible. Two studies investigated posteolateral fusion (PLF) ± instrumentation in different populations: one investigated non-specific low back pain and one investigated degenerative stenosis + spondylolisthesis. Both studies reflected that cost-effectiveness of instrumentation in PLF is not convincing. The third study concerned the question of circumferential vs anterior lumbar interbody fusion and found a non-significant difference between the techniques. In conclusion, the literature is limited and, in view of the fact that the clinical effects are statistically synonymous, it does not support the use of high-cost techniques. There is a great potential for improvement of methodological quality in economic evaluations of lumbar spinal fusion and further research is imperative.


Economics Cost-effectiveness Spinal fusion Systematic review Lowback pain 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, Spine UnitUniversity Hospital of AarhusAarhus CDenmark

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