Hearing-impaired children in the United Kingdom, IV: cost-effectiveness of pediatric cochlear implantation

Garry R. Barton, Paula C. Stacey, Heather M. Fortnum, A. Quentin Summerfield

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Objective: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of pediatric cochlear implantation by conducting a cost-utility analysis from a societal perspective.

Design: In a cross-sectional survey, the parents of a representative sample of hearing-impaired children assessed the health utility of their child using a revised version of the Health Utilities Index Mark III questionnaire. Linear regression was used to estimate the gain in health utility associated with implantation while controlling for eight potentially confounding variables: average (4-frequency, unaided, preoperative) hearing level (AHL), age at onset of hearing-impairment, age, gender, number of additional disabilities, parental occupational skill level, ethnicity, and parental hearing status. The gain in health utility was accumulated to estimate the number of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) that would be gained from implantation over 15 yr and over a child’s lifetime. The incremental societal cost of implantation, calculated in euros (€) at 2001/2 levels, was estimated by summing the incremental costs of implantation that are incurred in the health sector, in the education sector, and by the child’s family. The cost-effectiveness of cochlear implantation was estimated by calculating the incremental societal cost per QALY gained and was compared with an upper limit of acceptability of €50,000 per QALY.

Results: The parents of 403 implanted children, and 1863 nonimplanted children, completed the health utility questionnaire. Higher health utility was associated with a more favorable AHL, an older age at onset of hearing impairment, female gender, having fewer additional disabilities, having parents with a greater occupational skill level, white ethnicity, and implantation. The gain in health utility associated with implantation was estimated to be higher for children with a worse preoperative AHL and who were implanted when younger. Over 15 yr, for a child implanted at age 6 with a preoperative loss of 115 dB, 2.23 QALYs were estimated to be gained, compared with a mean incremental societal cost of €57,359, yielding a mean cost per QALY of €25,629. Cost-effectiveness was more favorable: (1) when estimated over a child’s lifetime rather than 15 yr, (2) for children with a worse preoperative AHL, and (3) for children who were implanted when younger.

Conclusions: The mean cost of gaining a QALY for the children in the present sample falls within acceptable limits. The strategy of giving highest priority for implantation to children with the greatest loss of hearing, and who are younger, maximizes benefit for a given cost.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-588
Number of pages14
JournalEar and Hearing
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006

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