Introduction: Although video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomy offers advantages with regard to pain, respiratory function and mobility, concern is often expressed concerning the cost of stapling devices and increased operative time. We have therefore compared the costs of VATS and open lobectomy in order to assess the overall economic sustainability of a VATS programme.
Materials and methods: Between January 2004 and December 2006 346 patients underwent pulmonary lobectomy mainly for stage I or II lung cancer (93 VATS lobectomy, 253 thoracotomy). In the VATS group 47% of patients had an upper lobectomy versus 52% in the open group (p=ns). Direct medical costs (disposables, theatre time, high dependency unit stay, hospital stay) were determined and stratified by lobectomy type.
Results: Mean theatre cost for a VATS lobectomy was 2533+/-230 euro versus 1280+/-54 euro for a thoracotomy lobectomy (p=0.00001). Mean high dependency unit (HDU) cost was 1713+/-236 euro and 2571+/-80 euro for a VATS and a thoracotomy lobectomy, respectively (p=0.00001). Mean cost of hospital stay for a VATS lobectomy was 3776+/-281 euro versus 4325+/-154 euro for an open one (p=0.00001). The overall cost for a VATS lobectomy was 8023+/-565 euro which was less than an open lobectomy 8178+/-167 euro (p=0.0002). VATS bilobectomy was slightly more expensive than an open one: 8702+/-350 euro versus 8655+/-466 euro but this difference (47 euro) was not significant (p=ns).
Conclusion: VATS lobectomy is less expensive than conventional lobectomy. Increased theatre costs (disposables and time) are counteracted by shorter hospital stay. Importantly, the reduced HDU and ward bed stays free resources for other patients.