Cost‐effectiveness of microsurgical reconstruction for head and neck defects after oncologic resection
ABSTRACT Background Microvascular free tissue transfer has become the main technique used for head and neck reconstruction. We assessed the cost‐effectiveness of free flap reconstruction for head and neck defects after oncologic resection for squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Methods We developed a Markov model of the cost, quality of life, survival, and incremental cost‐effectiveness of reconstruction with free tissue transfer compared with locoregional flaps. Health state probabilities and quality of life scores were determined from literature. Costs were determined from institutional experience. Outcomes included quality‐adjusted life years, costs, and incremental cost‐effectiveness ratio. Results Free flap reconstruction was more costly than pedicled flap but associated with greater quality of life with no survival benefit. A value $50,000 per quality‐adjusted life‐year (QALY) was defined as cost‐effective. The incremental cost‐effectiveness for head and neck free flap reconstruction was below the threshold and, therefore, free flap reconstruction is cost‐effective. Reconstruction was more cost‐effective for patients with lower stage cancers: $ 4643 per QALY for stage I SCC, $8226 for stage II, $ 17,269 for stage III, and $23,324 for stage IV. Univariate sensitivity analysis showed the cost‐effectiveness would remain 50,000 for all stages of SCC for all variables except for QALY after locoregional reconstruction without complications. Conclusion Microsurgical head and neck reconstruction is cost‐effective compared with locoregional flaps, even more so in patients with early‐stage cancer. This finding supports the current practice of free flap head and neck reconstruction. Screening and early detection are important to optimize costs. ⓒ 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck 39: 541–547, 2017
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