Economic evaluation of different suture closure methods: barbed versus traditional interrupted sutures
Healthcare systems are receiving increasing pressures from payers, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), to reduce the costs associated with procedures, and with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, high costs are addressed through pay-for-performance programs. Thus, multiple areas of total knee arthroplasty (TKA) surgery are under scrutiny, including surgical times, material costs, and the costs of associated complications and readmissions. Suture type has been determined to be a factor that may influence closure times, as well as direct material costs. Therefore, the purpose of this review was to compare: (I) the cost of using barbed vs. conventional interrupted sutures; (II) the additional cost of differences in complications, if any; (III) to extrapolate cost savings on a hospital and national level; and (IV) to discuss the role of these findings on hospital savings and the effect on bundled payments. It was found that the main factors affecting differences in overall costs between barbed and standard interrupted suture were material cost and closure time. Many studies have demonstrated greater cost savings with the barbed suture due to shorter operative times, despite the higher material costs. The majority of studies also demonstrated similar complication rates between the suture types, and thus these are unlikely to affect the cost difference. However, to the best of our knowledge, there are no TKA studies in the literature evaluating the effect of suture type and associated complications on lengths of stay and readmission rates. Thus, it is unclear how these cost savings will translate to reimbursements rates and the role that they might play in bundled payments. Several studies in other specialties demonstrate decreased infection rates with the use of barbed sutures, which, if found to be true for TKA can be extrapolated to 3 million dollars of savings in revision TKA costs. Further studies on this topic are needed to define these relationships.