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Surg Innov. 2005 Sep;12(3):261-87.

Minimally invasive: minimally reimbursed? An examination of six laparoscopic surgical procedures.

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Department of Health Policy, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.

Erratum in

  • Surg Innov. 2006 Mar;13(1):16.


It is generally believed that minimally invasive surgery (MIS) results in less postoperative pain, fewer complications, and shorter recovery periods compared with open procedures. Yet despite these benefits, the level of reimbursement assigned to the surgeon by United States health-care payers is often lower than that for open procedures. Furthermore, the cost of performing a MIS may be higher vs an open procedure because specialized equipment, increased surgical time, or both may be required. In this report, we examine the issue by comparing reimbursements for MIS with open procedures, summarizing the medical literature on MIS vs open surgical procedures, and offering recommendations for payers who establish reimbursement policies. The review is focused on six MIS procedures where outcomes data exist: laparoscopic cholecystectomy (lap chole), laparoscopic colectomy (LC), laparoscopic fundoplication (LF), laparoscopic hysterectomy (LH), laparoscopic ventral hernia repair (LVHR), and laparoscopic appendectomy (LA). Outcomes summarized were length of hospital stay (LOS), operating room time, operating room costs, complications, and return to work or normal activities. The level of scientific evidence was assigned to each study using predetermined criteria. A total of 112 articles were reviewed: 14 for lap chole, 26 for LC, 7 for LF, 19 for LH, 9 for LVHR, and 37 for LA. The data demonstrate that these procedures result in reduced hospital stay, reduced hospital costs, and faster return to work or normal activities. Yet, the operating room time and costs are frequently higher for MIS. These findings suggest that as both the outcomes value and level of operating room resources are greater, MIS warrants reimbursement that meets or exceeds that of open procedures.

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