Comparing costs of microsurgical resection and stereotactic radiosurgery for vestibular schwannoma

J Neurosurg 131:1395–1404, 2019

Given rising scrutiny of healthcare expenditures, understanding intervention costs is increasingly important. This study aimed to compare and characterize costs for vestibular schwannoma (VS) management with microsurgery and radiosurgery to inform practice decisions and appraise cost reduction strategies.

METHODS In conjunction with medical records, internal hospital financial data were used to evaluate costs. Total cost was divided into index costs (costs from arrival through discharge for initial intervention) and follow-up costs (through 36 months) for 317 patients with unilateral VSs undergoing initial management between June 2011 and December 2015. A retrospective matched cohort based on tumor size with 176 patients (88 undergoing each intervention) was created to objectively compare costs between microsurgery and radiosurgery. The full sample of 203 patients treated with resection and 114 patients who underwent radiosurgery was used to evaluate a broad range of outcomes and identify cost contributors within each intervention group.

RESULTS Within the matched cohort, average index costs were significantly higher for microsurgery (100% by definition, because costs are presented as a percentage of the average index cost for the matched microsurgery group; 95% CI 93–107) compared to radiosurgery (38%, 95% CI 38–39). Microsurgery had higher average follow-up costs (1.6% per month, 95% CI 0.8%–2.4%) compared to radiosurgery (0.5% per month, 95% CI 0.4%–0.7%), largely due to costs incurred in the initial months after resection. A major contributor to total cost and cost variability for both resection and radiosurgery was the need for additional interventions in the follow-up period, which were necessary due to complications or persistent functional deficits. Although tumor size was not associated with increased total costs for radiosurgery, linear regression analysis demonstrated that, for patients who underwent microsurgery, each centimeter increase in tumor maximum diameter resulted in an estimated increase in total cost of 50.2% of the average index cost of microsurgery (95% CI 34.6%–65.7%) (p < 0.001, R 2 = 0.17). There were no cost differences associated with the proportion of inpatient days in the ICU or with specific surgical approach for patients who underwent resection.

CONCLUSIONS This study is the largest assessment to date based on internal cost data comparing VS management with microsurgery and radiosurgery. Both index and follow-up costs are significantly higher when tumors were managed with resection compared to radiosurgery. Larger tumors were associated with increased resection costs, highlighting the incremental costs associated with observation as the initial management.