Background: Available evidence that compares outcomes from laparoscopic and open surgery for colorectal cancer shows no difference in disease free or survival time, or in health-related quality of life outcomes, but does not capture the short term benefits of laparoscopic methods in the early postoperative period.
Aim: To explore the cost-effectiveness of laparoscopic colorectal surgery, compared to open methods, using quality of life data gathered in the first 6 weeks after surgery.
Methods: Participants were recruited in 2006-2007 in a district general hospital in the south of England; those with a diagnosis of cancer or polyps were included in the analysis. Quality of life data were collected using EQ-5D, on alternate days after surgery for 4 weeks. Costs per patient, from a National Health Service perspective (in British pounds, 2006) comprised the sum of operative, hospital, and community costs. Missing data were filled using multiple imputation methods. The difference in mean quality adjusted life years and costs between surgery groups were estimated simultaneously using a multivariate regression model applied to 20 imputed datasets. The probability that laparoscopic surgery is cost-effective compared to open surgery for a given societal willingness-to-pay threshold is illustrated using a cost-effectiveness acceptability curve.
Results: The sample comprised 68 laparoscopic and 27 open surgery patients. At 28 days, the incremental cost per quality adjusted life year gained from laparoscopic surgery was £12,375. At a societal willingness-to-pay of £30,000, the probability that laparoscopic surgery is cost-effective, exceeds 65% (at £20,000 ≈60%). In sensitivity analyses, laparoscopic surgery remained cost-effective compared to open surgery, provided it results in a saving ≥£699 in hospital bed days and takes no more than 8 minutes longer to perform.
Conclusion: The study provides formal evidence of the cost-effectiveness of laparoscopic approaches and supports current guidelines that promote use of laparoscopy where suitably trained surgeons are available.
Keywords: QALYs; colorectal cancer; cost-effectiveness; laparoscopy.