JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Using evidence to minimize the cost of trigger finger care.

PURPOSE: Critics of U.S. health care cite both underuse and overuse of resources. With more than one third of Americans paying for medical care out of pocket, optimizing the cost-benefit ratio of care is a high priority. Clinical trials have established the success of the different treatment options for patients who present with trigger finger. The economic impact of these differing strategies has not been established. The aim of this study was to perform a cost-minimization analysis to identify the least costly strategy for effective treatment of trigger finger using existing evidence in the literature.

METHODS: Five strategies for the treatment of trigger finger were identified: (1) a steroid injection followed by surgical release for failure or recurrence, (2) a steroid injection followed by a second injection for failures or recurrence, followed by definitive surgery if needed, (3) 3 steroid injections before definitive surgery if needed, (4) surgical release, and (5) percutaneous release with definitive open surgery if needed. To reflect the costs, we used 2 sources of data: our institution's billing charges to private payers and our institution's reimbursements from Medicare. A literature review identified median success rates of the different treatment strategies. We conducted a series of analyses to evaluate the effect of varying individual costs and success rates.

RESULTS: The second strategy is the least costly treatment of those considered in this study. The most costly treatment, surgical release, costs between 248% and 340% more than the second strategy. For surgical or percutaneous release to cost less than the second strategy, the surgical billing charge would need to be lower than $742 for private payers or less than $305 of Medicare reimbursement.

CONCLUSIONS: Trigger finger is a common problem with many acceptable treatment algorithms. Management of trigger finger with 2 steroid injections before surgery is the least costly treatment strategy.

TYPE OF STUDY/LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Decision Analysis II.

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