As the health care system in the United States (US) transitions toward value-based care, there is an increased emphasis on understanding the cost drivers and high-value procedures within orthopaedics. To date, there has been no systematic review of the economic literature on anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR).
To evaluate the overall evidence base for economic studies published on ACLR in the orthopaedic literature. Data available on the economics of ACLR are summarized and cost drivers associated with the procedure are identified.
All economic studies (including US-based and non-US-based) published between inception of the MEDLINE database and October 3, 2014, were identified. Given the heterogeneity of the existing evidence base, a qualitative, descriptive approach was used to assess the collective results from the economic studies on ACLR. When applicable, comparisons were made for the following cost-related variables associated with the procedure for economic implications: outpatient versus inpatient surgery (or outpatient vs overnight hospital stay vs >1-night stay); bone-patellar tendon-bone (BPTB) graft versus hamstring (HS) graft source; autograft versus allograft source; staged unilateral ACLR versus bilateral ACLR in a single setting; single- versus double-bundle technique; ACLR versus nonoperative treatment; and other unique comparisons reported in single studies, including computer-assisted navigation surgery (CANS) versus traditional surgery, early versus delayed ACLR, single- versus double-incision technique, and finally the costs of ACLR without comparison of variables.
A total of 24 studies were identified and included; of these, 17 included studies were cost identification studies. The remaining 7 studies were cost utility analyses that used economic models to investigate the effect of variables such as the cost of allograft tissue, fixation devices, and physical therapy, the percentage and timing of revision surgery, and the cost of revision surgery. Of the 24 studies, there were 3 studies with level 1 evidence, 8 with level 2 evidence, 6 with level 3 evidence, and 7 with level 4 evidence. The following economic comparisons were demonstrated: (1) ACLR is more cost-effective than nonoperative treatment with rehabilitation only (per 3 cost utility analyses); (2) autograft use had lower total costs than allograft use, with operating room supply costs and allograft costs most significant (per 5 cost identification studies and 1 cost utility analysis); (3) results on hamstring versus BPTB graft source are conflicting (per 2 cost identification studies); (4) there is significant cost reduction with an outpatient versus inpatient setting (per 5 studies using cost identification analyses); (5) bilateral ACLR is more cost efficient than 2 unilateral ACLRs in separate settings (per 2 cost identification studies); (6) there are lower costs with similarly successful outcomes between single- and double-bundle technique (per 3 cost identification studies and 2 cost utility analyses).
Results from this review suggest that early single-bundle, single (endoscopic)-incision outpatient ACLR using either BPTB or HS autograft provides the most value. In the setting of bilateral ACL rupture, single-setting bilateral ACLR is more cost-effective than staged unilateral ACLR. Procedures using CANS technology do not yet yield results that are superior to the results of a standard surgical procedure, and CANS has substantially greater costs.