Anastomotic leakage is the most important cost driver in patients who undergo low anterior resection (LAR) for rectal cancer. Creating defunctioning stomas to protect colorectal anastomoses may also have a major effect on the overall costs. Unselected creation of defunctioning stomas in most of these patients may be associated with higher overall costs compared with a program that has a low rate of defunctioning stomas and an acceptable anastomotic leakage rate.
Secondary referral center.
Performing a cost analysis from the viewpoint of a hospital provider, we reviewed data of 70 consecutive patients who underwent LARs with (n = 19) or without (n = 51) a defunctioning colostomy. A scenario analysis was performed using data derived from the medical literature to assess a plausible range of leakage and stoma rates.
Main Outcome Measure
Costs per treatment option and incremental cost-effectiveness ratio according to various treatment scenarios.
Performing an LAR without a stoma and no anastomotic leakage is associated with significantly lowest costs (€8.400; P<.001) compared with patients with a stoma (€13.985) and patients with anastomotic leakage (€42.250). The most important cost drivers were anastomotic leakages and defunctioning stomas. A leakage rate of 16.5% in patients without a stoma would be necessary to balance the overall costs of patients with stomas. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio would be €158.705 and €60.915 per leak, respectively, avoided in patients with defunctioning stomas assuming a leakage rate lower than 3% and 6%, respectively, in patients who did not undergo a colostomy. A 1-way sensitivity analysis revealed that duration and costs of intensive care unit care were the only factors that may considerably alter our results.
A suggested benchmark for an LAR should be a rate of 10% or less for defunctioning stomas and anastomatic leaks; that would limit the overall costs to €12 000 per patient treated. Against the background of a lack of universally valid criteria for the creation of defunctioning stomas, our aim should be to reduce the rate of defunctioning stomas because of their major effect on the overall costs especially in programs with a lower leakage rate. Higher leakage rates despite higher stoma rates depend more on the skill of the surgeon than on the characteristics of the patient and higher leakage should lead to a change in surgical technique strategy.