Given its minimally invasive nature and effectiveness, stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) has become a mainstay for the multimodal treatment of intracranial neoplasm. However, no studies have evaluated recent trends in the use of SRS versus those of open resection for the management of brain tumor or trends in the involvement of neurosurgeons in SRS (which is primarily delivered by radiation oncologists). Here, the authors used publicly available Medicare data from 2009 to 2018 to elucidate trends in the treatment of intracranial neoplasm and to compare reimbursements between these approaches.
By using CPT Professional 2019, the authors identified 10 open resection and 9 SRS codes (4 for neurosurgery and 5 for radiation oncology) for the treatment of intracranial neoplasm. Medicare payments (inflation adjusted) and allowed services (number of reimbursed procedures) for each code were abstracted from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Part B National Summary Data File (2009-2018). Payments per procedure and procedures per 100,000 Medicare enrollees were analyzed with linear regression and compared with tests for equality of slopes (α = 0.05). The average payment per procedure over the study period was compared by using the 2-tailed Welsh unequal variances t-test, and more granular comparisons were conducted by using ANOVA with post hoc Tukey honestly significant difference (HSD) tests.
From 2009 to 2018, the number of SRS treatments per 100,000 Medicare enrollees for intracranial neoplasm increased by 3.97 cases/year (R2 = 0.99, p < 0.001), while comparable open resections decreased by 0.34 cases/year (R2 = 0.85, p < 0.001) (t16 = 7.5, p < 0.001). By 2018, 2.6 times more SRS treatments were performed per 100,000 enrollees than open resections (74.9 vs 28.7 procedures). However, neurosurgeon involvement in SRS treatment declined over the study period, from 23.4% to 11.5% of SRS treatments; simultaneously, the number of lesions treated per session increased from 1.46 to 1.84 (R2 = 0.98, p < 0.001). Overall, physician payments from 2013 to 2018 averaged $1816.08 (95% CI $1788.71-$1843.44) per SRS treatment and $1565.59 (95% CI $1535.83-$1595.34) per open resection (t10 = 15.9, p < 0.001). For neurosurgeons specifically, reimbursements averaged $1566 per open resection, but this decreased to $1031-$1198 per SRS session; comparatively, radiation oncologists were reimbursed even less (average $359-$898) per SRS session (p < 0.05 according to the Tukey HSD test for all comparisons).
Over a decade, the number of open resections for intracranial neoplasm in Medicare enrollees declined slightly, while the number of SRS procedures increased greatly. This latter expansion is largely attributable to radiation oncologists; meanwhile, neurosurgeons have shifted their involvement in SRS toward sessions for the management of multiple lesions.