Cost-outcome analysis of joint replacement: evidence from a Spanish public hospital

Gac Sanit. Jul-Aug 2008;22(4):337-43. doi: 10.1157/13125355.


Background and objectives: Efficiency-based healthcare decision-making has been widely accepted for some time, with cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) as the main outcome measure. Nevertheless, for numerous medical procedures, little data are available on the cost per QALY gained. The aim of the present study was to calculate the cost per QALY gained with primary hip and knee replacement and to compare the result with the cost per QALY for other medical procedures, as well as with the maximum threshold cost considered acceptable in Spain.

Methods: We performed a prospective cohort pre-test/post-test study of patients undergoing primary hip or knee arthroplasty. Age, sex, and clinical variables were recorded. Functional status and quality of life were measured by means of the WOMAC and EuroQol instruments, respectively, before the intervention and 6 months later. The direct costs of the intervention were calculated, with length of hospital stay and the prosthesis as the main cost drivers.

Results: A total of 80 patients, 40 from each intervention, were included in this study. Both functional and perceived health status improved after the intervention. The number of QALYs gained in the knee cohort was 4.64, while that in the hip cohort was 0.86. The total cost of knee replacement was lower (6,865.52 euro) than that of hip replacement (7,891.21 euro). The cost per QALY gained was 1,275.84 euro and 7,936.12 euro for knee and hip interventions, respectively. The calculations performed included a 6% discount rate for health outcomes, a 3% inflation rate for costs, and a success rate of 95% at 15 years.

Conclusions: The costs of both knee and hip replacement were lower than the threshold of 30,000 euro per QALY considered acceptable in Spain, and compared favorably with other medical and surgical procedures.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Hip / economics*
  • Arthroplasty, Replacement, Knee / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Public
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Spain