Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK) is the most common corneal transplant procedure. A key step in the procedure is preparing the donor cornea for transplantation. This can be accomplished via 1 of 3 alternatives: surgeon cuts the cornea on the day of surgery, the cornea is precut ahead of time in an offsite facility by a trained technician, or a precut cornea is purchased from an eye bank. Currently, there is little evidence on the costs and effectiveness of these 3 strategies to allow healthcare providers decide upon the preferred method to prepare grafts.
The aim of this study was to compare the costs and relative effectiveness of each strategy.
The Singapore National Eye Centre and Singapore Eye Bank performed both precut cornea and surgeon-cut cornea transplant services between 2009 and 2013.
This study included 110 subjects who received precut cornea and 140 who received surgeon-cut cornea. Clinical outcomes and surgical duration were compared across the strategies using the propensity score matching. The cost of each strategy was estimated using the microcosting and consisted of facility costs and procedural costs including surgical duration. One-way sensitivity analysis and threshold analysis were performed.
The cost for DSAEK was highest for the surgeon-cut approach ($13,965 per procedure), followed by purchasing precut corneas ($12,659) and then setting up precutting ($12,421). The higher procedural cost of the surgeon-cut approach was largely due to the longer duration of the procedure (surgeon-cut = 72.54 minutes, precut = 59.45 minutes, P < 0.001) and the higher surgeon fees. There was no evidence of differences in clinical outcomes between grafts that were precut or surgeon-cut. Threshold analysis demonstrated that if the number of cases was below 31 a year, the strategy that yielded the lowest cost was purchasing precut cornea from eye bank. If there were more than 290 cases annually, the cheapest option would be to setup precutting facility.
Our findings suggest that it is more efficient for centers that are performing a large number of cornea transplants (more than 290 cases) to set up their own facility to conduct precutting.