Preoperative Serum Albumin Levels Predict Treatment Cost in Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty

Hypoalbuminemia (serum albumin < 3.5 g/dL) is associated with increased morbidity and mortality in patients undergoing total hip arthroplasty (THA) and total knee arthroplasty (TKA). However, costs associated with hypoalbuminemia remain unknown. This study investigated the effect of serum albumin on direct treatment costs, length of stay (LOS), and readmissions for primary and revision THA and TKA patients.

All adult patients at a single institution undergoing primary or revision THA or TKA between January 2014 and December 2016 were retrospectively reviewed. Patients were stratified by preoperative serum albumin level. The primary outcome was total direct costs at index hospitalization. Secondary outcomes included LOS and readmission within 30 days. Multivariable regressions were utilized to adjust for demographics and comorbidities.

Of 3,785 patients, 114 (3.0%) had hypoalbuminemia. After adjustment, hypoalbuminemia was associated with a 16.2% increase in costs (β = 0.162; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.112 to 0.213; p < 0.001), representing an average cost increase of $3,383 (95% CI, $2,281 to $4,485) relative to costs for serum albumin > 4.5 g/dL. The increased total costs were significantly higher in revision ($4,322, p = 0.034) than in primary ($3,446, p < 0.001) procedures. In adjusted regression, each 1.0 g/dL increase in serum albumin yielded a 6.6% reduction in costs (β = -0.066; 95% CI, -0.090 to -0.042]; p < 0.001), for average savings of $1,282 (95% CI, $759 to $1,806) per unit albumin. Adjusted regressions demonstrated that a 1-point increase in serum albumin reduced readmissions by 53% (odds ratio, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.31-0.73; p = 0.001) and LOS by 0.6 days (β = -0.60; 95% CI, -0.76 to -0.44; p < 0.001).

Hypoalbuminemia is associated with increased total direct costs, LOS, and readmissions following primary and revision THA and TKA. Future efforts to predict and address total costs should take into consideration the patient’s preoperative serum albumin levels.