Background: Total hip and total knee arthroplasties are among the most common types of surgery performed in Australia today and are effective treatments for severe osteoarthritis. However, the increasing financial burden on the health system owing to the increasing rates of surgery has led to a growing interest in improving the cost-effectiveness and safety of arthroplasty care. This study was designed to quantify the association between post-operative complications, a major cost driver, and the cost of investigations following total hip or knee arthroplasty.
Methods: This is a prospective cohort study of consecutive patients undergoing primary total hip or knee arthroplasty at an Australian public hospital. We measured the number and cost of imaging and pathology tests performed during the acute hospital stay and used linear regression to quantify the association between complication status and investigation costs.
Results: Five hundred patients were included in the analysis. On average, those with complications received more tests, and more expensive tests. The mean combined cost of imaging and pathology tests in patients with no complications was AU$ 187 (SD: 12.0). In comparison, patients with minor complications had a mean additional cost of AU$ 270 (SD: 31.0), and those with major complications had a mean additional cost of AU$ 493 (SD: 54.2) (p<0.001).
Conclusions: In patients undergoing hip or knee arthroplasty, investigation costs are substantially greater in the presence of either minor or major complications. With growing volumes of total hip and total knee arthroplasties, a potential focus of future research could include optimising investigation practices for patients with and without complications.