Movement toward providing value-based musculoskeletal care requires understanding the cost associated with surgical care as well as the drivers of these costs. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of common medical comorbidities and specific total elbow arthroplasty (TEA) indications on reimbursement costs throughout the 90-day TEA episode of care. The secondary aim was to identify the drivers of these costs.

Administrative health claims for patients who underwent orthopedic intervention between 2010 and 2020 were queried using specific disease classification and procedural terminology codes from a commercially available national database of 53 million patients. Patients with commercial insurance were divided into various cohorts determined by different surgical indications and medical comorbidities. The reimbursement costs of the surgical encounter, 89-day postoperative period, and total 90-day period in each cohort were evaluated. The cost drivers for the 89-day postoperative period were also determined. Analyses were performed using descriptive statistics and the Kruskal-Wallis test for comparison.

A total of 378 patients who underwent TEA were identified. The mean reimbursement cost of the surgical encounter ($13,393 ± $8314) did not differ significantly based on patient factors. The mean reimbursement cost of the 89-day postoperative period ($4232 ± $2343) differed significantly when stratified by surgical indication (P <  .0001) or by medical comorbidity (P <  .0001). The indication of rheumatoid arthritis ($4864 ± $1136) and the comorbidity of chronic kidney disease ($5873 ± $1165) had the most expensive postoperative period. In addition, the total 90-day reimbursement cost ($16,982 ± $4132) differed significantly when stratified by surgical indication (P = .00083) or by medical comorbidity (P <  .0001), with the indication of acute fracture ($18,870 ± $3971) and the comorbidity of chronic pulmonary disease ($19,194 ± $3829) showing the highest total 90-day cost. Inpatient costs related to readmissions represented 38% of the total reimbursement cost. The overall readmission rate was 5.0%, and the mean readmission cost was $16,296.

TEA reimbursements are significantly influenced by surgical indications and medical comorbidities during the postoperative period and the total 90-day episode of care. As the United States transitions to delivering value-based health care, the need for surgeons and policy makers to understand treatment costs associated with different patient-level factors will expand.

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