The cost-effectiveness of transurethral resection of the prostate vs thulium laser transurethral vaporesection of the prostate in the UNBLOCS randomised controlled trial for benign prostatic obstruction

BJU Int. 2020 Nov;126(5):595-603. doi: 10.1111/bju.15138. Epub 2020 Aug 10.


Objective: To determine the cost-effectiveness of the current 'gold standard' operation of transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) compared to the new laser technique of thulium laser transurethral vaporesection of the prostate (ThuVARP) in men with benign prostatic obstruction (BPO) within the UK National Health Service (NHS).

Patients and methods: The trial was conducted across seven UK centres (four university teaching hospitals and three district general hospitals). A total of 410 men aged ≥18 years presenting with either bothersome lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) or urinary retention secondary to BPO, and suitable for surgery, were randomised (whilst under anaesthetic) 1:1 to receive the TURP or ThuVARP procedure. Resource use in relation to the operation, initial inpatient stay, and subsequent use of NHS services was collected for 12 months from randomisation (equivalent to primary effectiveness outcome) using hospital records and patient questionnaires. Resources were valued using UK reference costs. Quality adjusted life years (QALYs) were calculated from the EuroQoL five Dimensions five Levels (EQ-5D-5L) questionnaire completed at baseline, 3- and 12-months. Total adjusted mean costs, QALYs and incremental Net Monetary Benefit statistics were calculated: cost-effectiveness acceptability curves and sensitivity analyses addressed uncertainty.

Results: The total adjusted mean secondary care cost over the 12 months in the TURP arm (£4244) was £9 (95% CI -£376, £359) lower than the ThuVARP arm (£4253). The ThuVARP operation took on average 21 min longer than TURP. The adjusted mean difference of QALYs (0.01 favouring TURP, 95% CI -0.01, 0.04) was similar between the arms. There is a 76% probability that TURP is the cost-effective option compared with ThuVARP at the £20 000 per QALY willingness to pay threshold used by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Conclusion: One of the anticipated benefits of the laser surgery, reduced length of hospital stay with an associated reduction in cost, did not materialise within the study. The longer duration of the ThuVARP procedure is important to consider, both from a patient perspective in terms of increased time under anaesthetic, and from a service delivery perspective. TURP remains a highly cost-effective treatment for men with BPO.

Keywords: #Andrology; benign prostatic obstruction; cost-effectiveness analysis; quality of life; thulium laser transurethral vaporesection of the prostate; transurethral resection of the prostate.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy* / adverse effects
  • Laser Therapy* / economics
  • Laser Therapy* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Prostate / surgery*
  • Prostatic Hyperplasia / surgery*
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Transurethral Resection of Prostate* / adverse effects
  • Transurethral Resection of Prostate* / economics
  • Transurethral Resection of Prostate* / statistics & numerical data

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN00788389