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J Hand Surg Am. 2011 Aug;36(8):1282-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2011.05.017. Epub 2011 Jun 25.

Current and future national costs to medicare for the treatment of distal radius fracture in the elderly.

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Section of Plastic Surgery and the Surgical Collaborative for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Department of Surgery, University of Michigan Health Systemth, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0340, USA.



Distal radius fractures (DRFs) are the second most common fracture experienced by elderly individuals. In 2005, 16% of DRFs in the Medicare population were being treated with internal fixation, up from 3% in 1997. This shift in treatment strategy can have substantial financial impact on Medicare and the health care system in general. The specific aims of this project were to quantify the current and future Medicare expenditures attributable to DRF and to compare Medicare payments for the 4 treatment options for elderly DRF.


We analyzed the 100% 2007 Medicare dataset for annual DRF-attributable spending. Payments were obtained for claims that were identified as attributable to DRF by International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification codes for DRF in conjunction with a Current Procedural Technology code for relevant treatment or service. We projected annual payments based on increasing internal fixation treatment. All payments are reported in 2007 U.S. dollars.


In 2007, Medicare made $170 million in DRF-attributable payments. If the usage of internal fixation were to reach 50%, DRF-attributable payments could be nearly $240 million. The mean attributable payment made for each patient in 2007 was $1,983. Most of this is due to facility and staffing cost for the treatment procedure.


This analysis provides an accurate quantification of Medicare DRF-attributable expenditure. Use of 100% Medicare data allows for the summation of actual patient experience rather than modeling or estimation. The burden of DRF is going to grow as the U.S. population ages and as internal fixation becomes more widely used. The Medicare payment data can help in allocating resources nationally to address the increasing disease burden of DRF.

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