Societal Value of Surgery for Facial Reanimation

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Abstract

Importance

Patients with facial paralysis are perceived negatively by society in a number of domains. Society’s perception of the health utility of varying degrees of facial paralysis and the value society places on reconstructive surgery for facial reanimation need to be quantified.

Objective

To measure health state utility of varying degrees of facial paralysis, willingness to pay (WTP) for a repair, and the subsequent value of facial reanimation surgery as perceived by society.

Design, Setting, and Participants

This prospective observational study conducted in an academic tertiary referral center evaluated a group of 348 casual observers who viewed images of faces with unilateral facial paralysis of 3 severity levels (low, medium, and high) categorized by House-Brackmann grade. Structural equation modeling was performed to understand associations among health utility metrics, WTP, and facial perception domains. Data were collected from July 16 to September 26, 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Observer-rated (1) quality of life (QOL) using established health utility metrics (standard gamble, time trade-off, and a visual analog scale) and (2) their WTP for surgical repair.

Results

Among the 348 observers (248 women [71.3%]; 100 men [28.7%]; mean [SD] age, 29.3 [11.6] years), mixed-effects linear regression showed that WTP increased nonlinearly with increasing severity of paralysis. Participants were willing to pay $3487 (95% CI, $2362-$4961) to repair low-grade paralysis, $8571 (95% CI, $6401-$11 234) for medium-grade paralysis, and $20 431 (95% CI, $16 273-$25 317) for high-grade paralysis. The dominant factor affecting the participants’ WTP was perceived QOL. Modeling showed that perceived QOL decreased with paralysis severity (regression coefficient, −0.004; 95% CI, −0.005 to −0.004; P < .001) and increased with attractiveness (regression coefficient, 0.002; 95% CI, 0.002 to 0.003; P < .001). Mean (SD) health utility scores calculated by the standard gamble metric for low- and high-grade paralysis were 0.98 (0.09) and 0.77 (0.25), respectively. Time trade-off and visual analog scale measures were highly correlated. We calculated mean (SD) WTP per quality-adjusted life-year, which ranged from $10 167 ($14 565) to $17 008 ($38 288) for low- to high-grade paralysis, respectively.

Conclusions and Relevance

Society perceives the repair of facial paralysis to be a high-value intervention. Societal WTP increases and perceived health state utility decreases with increasing House-Brackmann grade. This study demonstrates the usefulness of WTP as an objective measure to inform dimensions of disease severity and signal the value society places on proper facial function.

Level of Evidence

NA.

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