PURPOSE - We compared the cost-effectiveness of 4 treatment strategies for varicocele related infertility from the perspective of the health care payor and patient.
MATERIALS AND METHODS - Cost-effectiveness analysis was performed by studying 4 treatment strategies, namely observation, surgical varicocelectomy followed by in vitro fertilization (IVF) if unsuccessful, gonadotropin stimulated intrauterine insemination (IUI) followed by IVF if unsuccessful, and immediate IVF. The main outcome measure was incremental cost per live delivery of any number of newborns.
RESULTS - Immediate IVF cost more per live delivery and was less effective than varicocelectomy/IVF or IUI/IVF. When electing the latter 2 procedures, the preferred approach depended on the choice of perspective. From the health care payor viewpoint each additional birth that resulted from choosing varicocelectomy/IVF over observation cost $52,152, while each additional birth that occurred by electing IUI/IVF over varicocelectomy/IVF cost $561,423. From the patient perspective, while varicocelectomy/IVF resulted in improved outcomes over observation, a rational decision maker would always be willing to pay the slightly higher cost of IUI/IVF (incremental cost per live birth versus observation $27,371) for the added benefit in effectiveness if they were initially willing to invest in varicocelectomy/IVF (incremental cost per live birth versus observation $27,618).
CONCLUSIONS - The optimal choice of treatment for varicocele related infertility depends strongly on the decision maker perspective. Regardless of perspective the most technologically advanced treatment, that is immediate IVF, is never favored. The findings of this study should be used to counsel infertile patients with varicocele that immediate IVF is not cost-effective.