Editor's Choice|Articles in Press

Catastrophic Health Care Expenditure Following Brachial Plexus Injury

Published:January 30, 2023DOI:


      Brachial plexus injuries (BPIs) are devastating to patients not only functionally but also financially. Like patients experiencing other traumatic injuries and unexpected medical events, patients with BPIs are at risk of catastrophic health expenditure (CHE) in which out-of-pocket health spending exceeds 40% of postsubsistence income (income remaining after food and housing expenses). The individual financial strain after BPIs has not been previously quantified. The purpose of this study was to assess the proportion of patients with BPIs who experience risk of CHE after reconstructive surgery.


      Administrative databases were used from 8 states to identify patients who underwent surgery for BPIs. Demographics including age, sex, race, and insurance payer type were obtained. Inpatient billing records were used to determine the total surgical and inpatient facility costs within 90 days after the initial surgery. Due to data constraints, further analysis was only conducted for privately-insured patients. The proportion of patients with BPIs at risk of CHE was recorded. Predictors of CHE risk were determined from a multivariable regression analysis.


      Among 681 privately-insured patients undergoing surgery for BPIs, nearly one-third (216 [32%]) were at risk of CHE. Black race and patients aged between 25 and 39 years were significant risk factors associated with CHE. Sex and the number of comorbidities were not associated with risk of CHE.


      Nearly one-third of privately-insured patients met the threshold for being at risk of CHE after BPI surgery.

      Clinical Relevance

      Identifying those patients at risk of CHE can inform strategies to minimize long-term financial distress after BPIs, including detailed counseling regarding anticipated health care expenditures and efforts to optimize access to appropriate insurance policies for patients with BPIs.

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