Management of Reducible Ventral Hernias: Clinical Outcomes and Cost-effectiveness of Repair at Diagnosis Versus Watchful Waiting

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Abstract

Objective:

To compare long-term clinical and economic outcomes associated with 3 management strategies for reducible ventral hernia: repair at diagnosis (open or laparoscopic) and watchful waiting.

Background:

There is variability in ventral hernia management. Recent data suggest watchful waiting is safe; however, long-term clinical and economic outcomes for different management strategies remain unknown.

Methods:

We built a state-transition microsimulation model to forecast outcomes for individuals with reducible ventral hernia, simulating a cohort of 1 million individuals for each strategy. We derived cohort characteristics (mean age 58 years, 63% female), hospital costs, and perioperative mortality from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (2003–2011), and additional probabilities, costs, and utilities from the literature. Outcomes included prevalence of any repair, emergent repair, and recurrence; lifetime costs; quality-adjusted life years (QALYs); and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. We performed stochastic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses to identify parameter thresholds that affect optimal management, using a willingness-to-pay threshold of $50,000/QALY.

Results:

With watchful waiting, 39% ultimately required repair (14% emergent) and 24% recurred. Seventy per cent recurred with repair at diagnosis. Laparoscopic repair at diagnosis was cost-effective compared with open repair at diagnosis (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio $27,700/QALY). The choice of operative strategy (open vs laparoscopic) was sensitive to cost and postoperative quality of life. When perioperative mortality exceeded 5.2% or yearly recurrence exceeded 19.2%, watchful waiting became preferred.

Conclusions:

Ventral hernia repair at diagnosis is very cost-effective. The choice between open and laparoscopic repair depends on surgical costs and postoperative quality of life. In patients with high risk of perioperative mortality or recurrence, watchful waiting is preferred.

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