Many studies have aimed to determine the most clinically effective surgical intervention for hydrocephalus. However, the costs associated with each treatment option are poorly understood. In this study, the authors conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis, calculating the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of ventriculoperitoneal shunting (VPS), endoscopic third ventriculostomy (ETV), and ETV with choroid plexus cauterization (ETV/CPC) in an effort to better understand the clinical effectiveness and costs associated with treating hydrocephalus.
The study cohort includes patients under the age of 18 who were initially treated for hydrocephalus between January 2012 and January 2015 at the authors’ institution. Overall treatment costs were calculated using patient-level hospitalization costs and professional fees reimbursable to the hospital and directly related to the initial and follow-up (postoperative day 1 to 12 months) treatment of hydrocephalus. TreeAge Pro was used to conduct the cost-effectiveness analyses.
A total of 147 patients were identified. Based on the initial intervention for hydrocephalus, their cases were classified as follows: 113 VPS, 14 ETV, and 20 ETV/CPC. During the initial intervention, VPS patients required a longer length of stay at 5.6 days, compared to ETV/CPC (3.35 days) and ETV (2.36 days) patients. Failure rates for all treatment options ranged from 29% to 45%, leading to recurrent hydrocephalus and additional surgical intervention between postoperative day 1 and 12 months. Cost-effectiveness analyses found ETV to be less costly and more clinically effective, with an ICER of $94,797 compared to VPS ($130,839) and ETV/CPC ($126,394). However, when stratified by etiology, VPS was found to be more clinically effective and cost-effective in both the myelomeningocele and posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus patient groups with an incremental cost per clinical unit of effectiveness (success or failure of intervention) of $76,620 compared to ETV and ETV/CPC. However, when assessing cases categorized as “other etiologies,” ETV was found to be more cost-effective per clinical unit, with an ICER of $60,061 compared to ETV/CPC ($93,350) and VPS ($142,135).
This study is one of the first attempts at quantifying the patient-level hospitalization costs associated with surgical management of hydrocephalus in pediatric patients treated in the United States. The results indicate that the conversation regarding CSF diversion techniques must be patient-specific and consider etiology as well as any previous surgical intervention. Again, these findings are short-run observations, and a long-term follow-up study should be conducted to assess the cost of treating hydrocephalus over the lifetime of a patient.