"Failure-to-Cross" in Patients Undergoing Percutaneous Peripheral Intervention: The Nonreimbursed Procedure.


Advocate Lutheran General Hospital


Background: Percutaneous peripheral intervention (PPI) is often the first mode of therapy for patients with symptomatic arterial occlusive disease. Technical success generally remains high although "failure-to-cross" still complicates 5-20% of cases. Extended efforts to cross long, occlusive lesions can utilize significant hospital and practitioner resources. The hospital is typically reimbursed for this effort as facility fees are charged by the hour and materials are charged per use. However, given the lack of a CPT® code for "failure-to-cross," practitioners are rarely appropriately compensated. The purpose of this study is to analyze the predictors, technical details, outcomes, and costs of "failure-to-cross" during PPI.

Methods: All PPI procedures over a 2-year period at a single institution were retrospectively reviewed. Clinical characteristics, results, costs, and reimbursements obtained from hospital cost accounting were compared among successful therapeutic interventions, crossing failures, and diagnostic angiograms without attempted intervention.

Results: A total of 146 consecutive PPIs were identified; the rate of "failure-to-cross" was 11.6% (17 patients). The majority of patients with "failure-to-cross" were male (82%) with single-vessel runoff (53%). Compared to successful interventions, the incidences of chronic limb-threatening ischemia (82% vs. 70%, P = 0.34) and infrapopliteal occlusive disease were similar (47% vs. 31%, P = 0.20). "Failure-to-cross" procedures were just as long as successful procedures; there were no significant differences in fluoroscopy time (27 ± 10 vs. 24 ± 14 min, P = 0.52), in-room time (106 ± 98 vs. 103 ± 44 min, P = 0.84), or contrast dye volume utilization (73 ± 37 vs. 96 ± 54 mL, P = 0.12). As expected, "failure-to-cross" procedures incurred far higher hospital charges and costs compared to noninterventional diagnostic angiograms (charges $13,311 ± 6,067 vs. $7,690 ± 1,942, P < 0.01; costs $5,289 ± 2,099 vs. $2,826 ± 1,198, P < 0.01). Despite the additional time and effort spent attempting to cross difficult lesions, the operators were reimbursed at the same low rate as a purely diagnostic procedure (average fee charge $7,360; average reimbursement $992). After 1 year, the 17 patients in whom lesions could not be crossed were treated with advanced interventional procedures with success (n = 2), surgical bypass grafting (n = 5), extremity amputation (n = 4), or no additional intervention in their salvaged limb (n = 6).

Conclusions: Patients whose lesions cannot be crossed during PPI fare worse than patients undergoing successful interventions. Hospital costs and charges appropriately reflect the high technical difficulty and resource utilization of extended attempts at endovascular therapy. For practitioners, crossing lesions during PPI is truly a "pay-for-performance" procedure in that only successful procedures are reasonably reimbursed.

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