Background: The health care costs of kidney transplantation and dialysis are generally unknown. This study estimates the Swedish health care costs of kidney transplantation and dialysis over 10 years from a health care perspective.
Method: A before-after design was used, in which the patients served as their own controls. Health care costs the year before transplantation were assumed to continue in the absence of a transplant and the cost savings was therefore calculated as the difference between the expected costs and the actual costs during the 10-year follow-up period. Factors associated with the size of the cost savings were studied using ordinary least-squares regression.
Results: Altogether 66-79% of the expected health care costs over 10 years were avoided through kidney transplantation, resulting in a cost savings of €380 000 (2012 price-year) per patient. Savings were the highest for successful transplantations, but on average the treatment was cost-saving also for patients who returned to dialysis. No gender or age differences could be found, with the exception of a higher cost of transplantation for children and a generally higher cost for younger compared with older patients on dialysis. A negative association was also found between age at the time of transplantation and the size of the cost savings for the younger part of the sample.
Conclusion: Kidney transplantations have led to substantial cost savings for the Swedish health care system. An increase in donated kidneys has the potential to further reduce the cost of renal replacement therapy.
Keywords: Sweden; dialysis; health care costs; kidney transplantation.