Open Access Research article

Explosive growth of facet joint interventions in the medicare population in the United States: a comparative evaluation of 1997, 2002, and 2006 data

Laxmaiah Manchikanti1*, Vidyasagar Pampati1, Vijay Singh2, Mark V Boswell3, Howard S Smith4 and Joshua A Hirsch5

Author Affiliations

1 Pain Management Center of Paducah, 2831 Lone Oak Road, Paducah, KY, 42003, USA

2 Pain Diagnostics Associates, 1601 Roosevelt Road, Niagara WI 54151, USA

3 Texas Tech. University Health Sciences Center, 3601 4th St MS: 8182 Lubbock TX 79430, USA

4 Albany Medical College, 47 New Scotland Avenue, Albany NY 12208, USA

5 Massachusetts General Hospital, 55 Blossom St., Gray 289, Boston, MA 02114, USA

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:84  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-84

Published: 30 March 2010



The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services (OIG-DHHS) issued a report which showed explosive growth and also raised questions of lack of medical necessity and/or indications for facet joint injection services in 2006.

The purpose of the study was to determine trends of frequency and cost of facet joint interventions in managing spinal pain.


This analysis was performed to determine trends of frequency and cost of facet joint

Interventions in managing spinal pain, utilizing the annual 5% national sample of the Centers for

Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for 1997, 2002, and 2006.

Outcome measures included overall characteristics of Medicare beneficiaries receiving facet joint interventions, utilization of facet joint interventions by place of service, by specialty, reimbursement characteristics, and other variables.


From 1997 to 2006, the number of patients receiving facet joint interventions per 100,000

Medicare population increased 386%, facet joint visits increased 446%, and facet joint interventions increased 543%. The increases were higher in patients aged less than 65 years compared to those 65 or older with patients increasing 504% vs. 355%, visits increasing 587% vs. 404%, and services increasing 683% vs. 498%.

Total expenditures for facet joint interventions in the Medicare population increased from over $229 million in 2002 to over $511 million in 2006, with an overall increase of 123%. In 2006, there was a 26.8-fold difference in utilization of facet joint intervention services in Florida compared to the state with the lowest utilization - Hawaii.

There was an annual increase of 277.3% in the utilization of facet joint interventions by general physicians, whereas a 99.5% annual increase was seen for nurse practitioners (NPs) and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) from 2002 to 2006. Further, in Florida, 47% of facet joint interventions were performed by general physicians.


The reported explosive growth of facet joint interventions in managing spinal pain in certain regions and by certain specialties may result in increased regulations and scrutiny with reduced access.