Objectives: The aim of this study was to compare the relative cost of a transesophageal echocardiography (TEE)-guided strategy versus conventional strategy for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) >2 days duration undergoing electrical cardioversion over an eight-week period.
Background: The Assessment of Cardioversion Using Transesophageal Echocardiography (ACUTE) trial found no difference in embolic rates between the two approaches. However, the TEE-guided strategy had a shorter time to cardioversion and a lower rate of composite bleeding. While similar clinical efficacy was concluded, the relative cost of these two strategies has not been explored.
Methods: Two economic approaches were employed in the ACUTE trial. The first approach was based on hospital charge data from complete hospital Universal Billing Code of 1992 forms, a detailed hospital charge questionnaire, or imputation. Regression analysis was used to investigate the added cost of adverse events. The second economic approach involved the development of an independent analytic model simulating treatment and actual ACUTE outcome costs as a validation of clinically derived data. Sensitivity analysis was performed on the analytic model to investigate the potential range in cost differences between the strategies.
Results: A total of 833 of the 1,222 patients were enrolled from 53 U.S. sites; TEE-guided (n = 420) and conventional (n = 413). At eight-week follow-up, total mean costs did not significantly differ between the two groups, respectively (6,508 dollars vs. 6,239 dollars; difference of 269 dollars; p = 0.50). Cumulative costs were 24% higher in the conventional group, primarily due to increased incidence of bleeding and hospital costs associated with bleeding. A separate analytic model showed that treatment costs were higher for the TEE-guided strategy, but outcome costs were higher for the conventional strategy. Sensitivity analysis of the analytic model illustrated that varying the incidence and cost of major bleeding and the cost of TEE had the greatest impact on cost differences between the two groups.
Conclusions: In patients with AF >2 days duration undergoing electrical cardioversion, the TEE-guided group showed little difference in patient costs compared with the conventional group. The TEE strategy had higher initial treatment costs but lower outcome-associated costs. Cumulative costs were 24% higher in the conventional group, primarily due to bleeding. The TEE-guided strategy is an economically feasible approach compared with the conventional strategy.