BACKGROUND - Excisional biopsy of small subcentimeter pulmonary nodules can be difficult using standard thoracoscopic techniques and may require thoracotomy. Radiotracer-guided thoracoscopic resection (RGTR) was developed to facilitate resection of intraparenchymal subcentimeter pulmonary nodules. Decision analysis, used to model cost and effectiveness, is useful to compare treatment options. We hypothesize that RGTR strategy is more cost-effective compared with thoracotomy for subcentimeter pulmonary nodules.
METHODS - The cost-effectiveness of RGTR versus thoracotomy for evaluating highly suspicious subcentimeter pulmonary nodules was examined with a decision analysis model (Fig 1). A 40-patient institutional cohort who underwent RGTR was used to estimate probabilities and costs of the two treatment options within the model. Effectiveness was estimated using 5-year, stage-specific cancer survival and population survival curves. The Society of Thoracic Surgeons General Thoracic Database was queried obtaining mortality estimates for thoracotomy and thoracoscopic wedge resections. These were used to adjust the 5-year survival estimates of patients with benign disease. Sensitivity analyses determined model robustness and the thresholds at which the most cost-effective strategy changed.
RESULTS - Radiotracer-guided thoracoscopic resection was 95% successful with no mortality. The average cost-to-effectiveness ratio of RGTR strategy was $27,887 versus $32,271 for thoracotomy. Sensitivity analyses demonstrated that the thoracotomy strategy was more cost-effective if the estimated cost of RGTR increased by 33% or the estimated cost-effectiveness of thoracotomy decreased by 14% or more. Radiotracer-guided thoracoscopic resection was more cost-effective as long as the probability of success was greater than 44%.
CONCLUSIONS - Decision analysis is a useful tool to evaluate treatment options for thoracic surgeons, and RGTR is a more cost-effective strategy than thoracotomy for subcentimeter pulmonary nodules.