OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to examine whether routine referral to municipal postoperative rehabilitation is cost-effective in comparison to no referral after surgery for lumbar disc herniation (LDH).
METHODS: One hundred forty-six patients scheduled for primary discectomy due to LDH were included. This secondary analysis, based on data from a previous randomized controlled trial, compared costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) between two groups of patients recovering from LDH surgery: one group of patients received a referral for municipal physical rehabilitation (REHAB) and the other group was sent home without a referral to any postoperative rehabilitation (HOME). Primary outcomes were QALYs calculated from the EQ-5D utility score, societal costs, and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs). The main cost-effectiveness analysis used intention-to-treat data, whereas sensitivity analyses included as-treated data. Questionnaires were collected after 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months postoperatively.
RESULTS: The main cost-effectiveness analysis showed a small, insignificant incremental QALY of 0.021 and an incremental cost of €211.8 for the REHAB group compared to the HOME group, resulting in an ICER of €10,085. In the as-treated sensitivity analysis, the REHAB group had poorer outcomes and higher costs compared to the HOME group.
CONCLUSIONS: Routine referral to municipal physical rehabilitation in patients recovering from LDH surgery was not cost-effective compared to no referral.Clinical trial registration no.: NCT03505918 (clinicaltrials.gov).