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BACKGROUND: The rapid and widespread introduction of minimal access surgery has major implications for the National Health Service. It cannot be assumed that replacing an open procedure with a minimal access alternative will be cost-effective. Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair is a procedure for which the potential economic benefits are particularly unclear. It is currently being adopted in many centres, although limited evidence on its clinical and cost-effectiveness exists. METHODS: This economic comparison of laparoscopic versus open hernia repair was undertaken on data collected on 104 patients undergoing surgery on a day case basis, in the context of a randomized controlled trial. RESULTS: The mean total health service cost of laparoscopic repair was 1074 pounds versus 489 pounds for open repair [mean difference in total health service costs 583 pounds; 95 percent confidence interval (CI) 265 pounds-904 pounds]. This difference was largely accounted for by the difference in theatre costs. Laparoscopic repair remained significantly more expensive for most but not all of the scenarios explored in the sensitivity analysis. The direction of the cost-effectiveness ratio was not sensitive to assumptions about long-term recurrence. Neither was it sensitive to halving the operating time in the laparoscopic arm of the trial. When both operating time and the costs of consumables were reduced, laparoscopic repair remained more expensive, but results for this scenario did not achieve statistical significance on this sample size. CONCLUSIONS: Laparoscopic hernia repair appears an expensive option in most plausible situations. Furthermore, many uncertainties still exist about long-term outcome after the procedure and about the conditions necessary to maximize cost-effectiveness. Large-scale randomized studies to evaluate laparoscopic hernia repair are currently under way to address these issues. We suggest that further evidence is awaited before this technology is further diffused.

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Public Health Med

Publication Date

03/1996

Volume

18

Pages

41 - 48

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Confidence Intervals, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Costs and Cost Analysis, Data Interpretation, Statistical, Hernia, Inguinal, Humans, Laparoscopy, Middle Aged, Prospective Studies, Recurrence, Time Factors