As the cost of health care continues to increase, there is a growing emphasis on evaluating the relative economic value of treatment options to guide resource allocation. The objective of this systematic review was to evaluate the current evidence regarding the cost-effectiveness of cranial neurosurgery procedures.
The authors performed a systematic review of the literature using PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library, focusing on themes of economic evaluation and cranial neurosurgery following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. Included studies were publications of cost-effectiveness analysis or cost-utility analysis between 1995 and 2017 in which health utility outcomes in life years (LYs), quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), or disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) were used. Three independent reviewers conducted the study appraisal, data abstraction, and quality assessment, with differences resolved by consensus discussion.
In total, 3485 citations were reviewed, with 53 studies meeting the inclusion criteria. Of those, 34 studies were published in the last 5 years. The most common subspecialty focus was cerebrovascular (32%), followed by neurooncology (26%) and functional neurosurgery (24%). Twenty-eight (53%) studies, using a willingness to pay threshold of US$50,000 per QALY or LY, found a specific surgical treatment to be cost-effective. In addition, there were 11 (21%) studies that found a specific surgical option to be economically dominant (both cost saving and having superior outcome), including endovascular thrombectomy for acute ischemic stroke, epilepsy surgery for drug-refractory epilepsy, and endoscopic pituitary tumor resection.
There is an increasing number of cost-effectiveness studies in cranial neurosurgery, especially within the last 5 years. Although there are numerous procedures, such as endovascular thrombectomy for acute ischemic stroke, that have been conclusively proven to be cost-effective, there remain promising interventions in current practice that have yet to meet cost-effectiveness thresholds.