BACKGROUND - Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common disorder that may be effectively managed medically or surgically. Direct evaluations of medical resource use are needed to better understand the relative costs of these alternatives. This study compared medical care use for a group of patients receiving surgical treatment for GERD with that for a comparable group of patients receiving medical management.
STUDY DESIGN - We conducted a retrospective matched cohort study of Tennessee Medicaid (TennCare) patients with GERD undergoing surgical treatment in 1996 and a group of patients who received medical therapy during the same period. Administrative TennCare data provided computerized records that could be used to identify patients and measure healthcare use. There were 7,502 people who met all of the conditions for inclusion in the study, including at least two encounters with a diagnosis of GERD. One hundred thirty-five of these who underwent fundoplication constituted the surgically treated cohort. The 250 persons in the medically treated cohort were selected randomly from the remaining nonsurgical patients and matched to the surgical cohort by age, gender, race, managed care organization, and acid suppression drug use in the baseline year. The principal outcome of interest was total use of medical resources, including prescription medication.
RESULTS - The surgical and medical cohorts did not differ significantly by demographic characteristics or by baseline use of pharmaceuticals. During the baseline year the surgically treated patients were prescribed 302 (95% CI: 270-334) days ofGERD treatment and the matched medical patients were prescribed 292 (95% CI: 267-317) days of GERD treatment. Surgically treated patients used more GERD-related outpatient resources (physician visits and diagnostic testing) in the baseline year, particularly in the 3 months before operation, when they had a mean of more than four outpatient encounter-days. In the followup year, use of GERD-related pharmaceuticals decreased markedly in the surgical cohort. These patients were prescribed an average of 123 days (95% CI: 94-153) of therapy, which was only 36% of that for medical patients (339 days [95% CI: 308-370]). More than 29% of surgical patients were prescribed no GERD-related drugs in the followup year compared with 6% of the medically treated group. The mean number of inpatient days for the fundoplication procedure was 3.2 (95% CI: 2.7-3.6), with a range of 0 to 13 days. There were no differences between the two groups in other healthcare use.
CONCLUSIONS - Our results show that in a 1-year period of followup, surgical treatment of severe gastroesophageal reflux disease led to a 64% postsurgical reduction in GERD medication use, with no increase in use of other medical services.