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Laparoscopic magnetic sphincter augmentation may accrue savings over time



BALTIMORE – The upfront costs of laparoscopic magnetic sphincter augmentation are higher than those of laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication, but the cost differential can even out over time because the former procedure is associated with lower medical therapy costs after the procedure.

The finding comes from to a prospective observational study from the Allegheny Health Network in Pittsburgh, reported by Shahin Ayazi, MD, at the annual meeting of the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons.

“Magnetic sphincter augmentation (MSA) results in comparable symptom control, proton-pump inhibitor (PPI) elimination rate, and GERD health-related quality of life and Reflux Symptom Index measures compared to values reported for laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication (LNF) in the literature,” said Dr. Ayazi of the University of Rochester (N.Y.). “Unlike reported values for LNF, the majority of patients after MSA were discharged on the same day of surgery.”

Dr. Ayazi reported on 180 patients who had MSA and 1,131 who had LNF over a 2-year period beginning in September 2015 at Allegheny Health, a network of eight hospitals and related facilities in western Pennsylvania and western New York State. The study analyzed Highmark claims data to calculate costs for 12 months before and after surgery in four categories: total procedure payer cost, payer costs of PPI, disease-related costs, and all medical costs.

Dr. Ayazi noted that many payers have been reluctant to cover the costs of MSA because the device costs around $5,000 on average. “There’s also a paucity of data in the literature in regard to the cost analysis of MSA in the management of reflux disease,” he said, adding that this is the first study that uses payer data to analyze the cost of antireflux surgery.

In this study, MSA costs slightly more up front than LNF ($13,522 vs. $13,388, respectively; P = .02). Per-member/per-month (PMPM) costs in the 12 months before their procedures were higher in the MSA group ($305 vs. $233). After surgery, these costs were significantly lower at $104 for MSA patients versus $126 for LNF patients, Dr. Ayazi said.

In the MSA group, 89% of patients were discharged on the same day as surgery, 90.7% said they were satisfied with the outcome, and 91.8% discontinued PPI therapy, Dr. Ayazi said.

He noted the claims data did not provide access to clinical data, Highmark did not provide information on the etiology of the costs differences, and the follow-up for cost analysis is relatively short-term.

During the discussion, Michel Gagner, MD, of Westmount, Quebec, warned against reading too much into the study because of its short duration and gave the example of experience with the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band. “The 10 years after, when you look at the reoperation, the removal, the conversions, some of the disasters in this area – all this needs to be added to the cost, and then when you looked at this, it was no longer cost effective. So I’m wondering if the same story could happen in the next 10 years. You may find that your conclusions are totally reversed.”

Peter Crookes, MD, of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, challenged the study’s comparison of procedure cost, noting that the trend is toward same-day discharge after LNF, whereas study patients were hospitalized after LNF. Dr. Ayazi noted that the data presented reported procedure cost, not the hospital stay costs, because Highmark did not provide that data.

Lead researcher Blair Jobe, MD, director of the Esophageal and Lung Institute at Allegheny Health Network, added, “The higher initial cost of a LINX (Ethicon) procedure compared to a Nissen fundoplication is perceived as a drawback by insurers, which can make getting insurance approvals challenging. This study suggests that perception may be short sighted in that insurance plans can provide better care for their GERD patients at a similar cost to laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication when you factor in the greater reductions in medical costs after the procedure.”

Dr. Ayazi has no relevant financial relationships to disclose. Dr. Jobe reported he is a consultant for Ethicon.

SOURCE: Ayazi S et al. SAGES 2019, Session SS04.

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