An In-Depth Review of Physician Reimbursement for Digit and Thumb Replantation

Published:April 17, 2019DOI:


      To examine physician and hospital reimbursement for digit and thumb replantation compared with revision amputation.


      Using the 2009–2016 Truven Health MarketScan Research Databases, we identified patients with a digit or thumb amputation. Following application of our inclusion and exclusion criteria, we divided patients into replantation and revision amputation groups. We extracted the mean physician and hospital reimbursement associated with each patient encounter. For comparison, we examined the work Relative Value Unit (wRVU) and Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) for the respective procedures in addition to several common hand surgery procedures.


      We identified 51,716 patients. Following application of our inclusion and exclusion criteria, 219 replantation and 6,209 revision amputation patients were included in our analysis. For replantation, the mean physician and hospital reimbursements ranged from $3,938 to $7,753 and $30,683 to $56,256, respectively. For revision amputation, the mean physician and hospital reimbursements ranged from $1,030 to $1,206 and $2,877 to $4,188, respectively. On multivariable analysis, hospitals performing replantation earned $37,788 more per case compared with revision amputation. Using the wRVU and MPFS data, we determined that replantation reimburses at $78/wRVU compared with higher earnings for revision amputation ($108), carpal tunnel release ($101), cubital tunnel release ($97), trigger finger release ($116), open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) distal radius fracture ($87), flexor tendon repair ($98), extensor tendon repair ($122), repair of digital nerve ($89), and ORIF articular fracture ($82), respectively.


      Low physician reimbursement for replantation compared with less complex hand procedures makes it difficult to recruit and retain hand surgeons for this purpose. By understanding the wRVU and MPFS system, hand surgeons and professional societies can explore ways to promote change in the way replantation is valued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as well as by hospital administrators.

      Type of study/level of evidence

      Economic/Decision Analysis III.

      Key words

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