A Cost Analysis of Endoscopic Ultrasound in The Evaluation of Esophageal Cancer

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OBJECTIVE:The use of endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) with guided fine needle aspiration (FNA) of suspicious lymph nodes has become an important aid in the staging of esophageal carcinoma. The economic impact of this staging strategy has not yet been described. We applied a decision analysis model to compare the costs of EUS FNA, CT-guided FNA, and surgery in the management of esophageal tumors. A cost-minimization approach was employed, as viewed from the perspective of the payer.METHODS:A decision analysis model with three management arms was designed using DATA 3.5 software, taking the entry criteria as esophageal carcinoma without evidence of distant metastases as determined by CT. Detection of tumor on celiac lymph node (CLN) FNA signified unresectability and prompted palliative treatment: chemoradiotherapy with endoscopic esophageal stenting rather than surgery. Baseline probabilities were varied through plausible ranges using sensitivity analysis. Cost inputs were based on Medicare professional fees plus Medicare facility fees. The endpoint was the cost of management per patient.RESULTS:EUS FNA was the least costly strategy ($13,811), compared to CT FNA ($14,350) and surgery ($13,992). The model outcome was sensitive to changes in both EUS FNA sensitivity and prevalence of CLN metastases. EUS FNA remained the least costly option provided the prevalence of CLN involvement was >16%; below this value, surgery became the most economical strategy.CONCLUSION:By minimizing unnecessary surgery, primarily by detecting CLN involvement, EUS FNA is the least costly staging strategy in the workup of patients with nonmetastatic esophageal cancer. Under certain circumstances, surgery is the preferred strategy.

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