Background: Acute colonic obstruction because of malignancy is often a surgical emergency. Surgical decompression with colostomy with or without resection and eventual re-anastomosis is the traditional treatment of choice. Endoscopic colonic stent insertion effectively decompresses the obstructed colon, allowing for surgery to be performed electively. This study sought to determine the cost-effectiveness of colonic stent vs. surgery for emergent management of acute malignant colonic obstruction.
Methods: Decision analysis was used to calculate the cost-effectiveness of two competing strategies in a hypothetical patient presenting with acute, complete, malignant colonic obstruction: (1) emergent colonic stent followed by elective surgical resection and re-anastomosis; (2) emergent surgical resection followed by diversion (Hartmann's procedure) or primary anastomosis. Cost estimates were obtained from a third-party payer perspective. Primary outcome measures were mortality, stoma requirement, and total number of operative procedures.
Results: Colonic stent resulted in 23% fewer operative procedures per patient (1.01 vs. 1.32 operations per patient), an 83% reduction in stoma requirement (7% vs. 43%), and lower procedure-related mortality (5% vs. 11%). Colonic stent was associated with a lower mean cost per patient ($45,709 vs. $49,941).
Conclusions: Colonic stent insertion followed by elective surgery appears more effective and less costly than emergency surgery under base-case conditions. This finding remains robust over a wide range of assumptions for clinical inputs in sensitivity analysis. Our findings suggest that colonic stent insertion should be offered, whenever feasible, as a bridge to elective surgery in patients presenting with malignant colonic obstruction.