Multiplanar external fixation systems that employ software-assisted deformity correction consist of rings connected by angled struts, defined as hexapod ring fixators (HRF). Costs and outcomes associated with the application of HRFs are not well documented. This study was designed to provide a nationwide baseline understanding of the clinical presentation, risks, outcomes and payer costs, and healthcare resource utilization (HCU) of patients requiring application of an HRF, from the day of, and up to 2 years, post-application.
Patients with HRF application (“index”) between 2007 and 2019 within the IBM Marketscan® Commercial Claims database were identified and categorized based on diagnosis: acquired deformity, arthropathy, congenital deformity, deep infection, nonunion, fracture, and other post-operative fracture sequelae. Demographics, comorbidities at index, complications post-index, HCU, and payments were analyzed. Payments were estimated using a generalized linear model and were adjusted for inflation to the 2020 consumer price index. Rates of deep infection and amputation were estimated up to 2 years post-index using Poisson regressions, and risk factors for each were estimated using logistic regression models.
Six hundred ninety-five patients were included in our study (including 219 fractures, 168 congenital deformities, 68 deep infections, 103 acquired deformities). Comorbidities at index were significantly different across groups: less than 2% pediatrics vs 18% adults had 3 or more comorbidities, < 1% pediatric vs 29% adults had diabetes. Index payments ranged from $39,250–$75,350, with 12-months post-index payments ranging from $14,350 to $43,108. The duration of the HRF application ranged from 96 days to 174 days. Amputation was observed in patients with deep infection (8.9, 95% confidence interval (CI): 3.2–23.9%), nonunion (5.0, 95%CI: 1.6–15.4%) or fracture (2.7, 95%CI: 0.9–7.6%) at index. Complicated diabetes was the main predictor for deep infection (odds ratio (OR): 5.14, 95%CI: 2.50–10.54) and amputation (OR: 5.26, 95%CI: 1.79–15.51).
Findings from this longitudinal analysis demonstrate the significant heterogeneity in patients treated with HRF, and the wide range in treatment intensity, payments, and outcomes. Risks for deep infection and amputation were primarily linked to the presence of complicated diabetes at the time of HRF application, suggesting a need for careful management of comorbid chronic conditions in patients requiring HRF for orthopedic care.