To perform a systematic review of economic evaluations of enhanced recovery pathways (ERP) for colorectal surgery.
Although there is extensive literature investigating the clinical effectiveness of ERP, little is known regarding its cost-effectiveness.
A systematic literature search identified all relevant articles published between 1997 and 2012 that performed an economic evaluation of ERP for colorectal surgery. Studies were included only if their ERP included all 5 of the key components (patient information, preservation of GI function, minimization of organ dysfunction, active pain control, and promotion of patient autonomy). Quality assessment was performed using the Consensus on Health Economic Criteria instrument (scored 0–19; high quality ≥ 12). Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were calculated if sufficient data were provided, using difference in length of stay and overall complication rates as effectiveness measures.
Of a total of 263 unique records identified (253 from databases and 10 from other sources), 10 studies met our inclusion criteria and were included for full qualitative synthesis. Overall quality was poor (mean quality 7.8). Eight reported lower costs for ERP. The majority (8 of 10) of studies were performed from an institutional perspective and therefore did not include costs related to changes in productivity and other indirect costs (eg, caregiver burden). Five studies provided enough information to calculate ICERs, of which ERP was dominant (less costly and more effective) in all cases for reduction in length of stay and was dominant or potentially cost-effective in 4 and questionable (no difference in costs nor effectiveness) in 1 for reduction in overall complications.
The quality of the current evidence is limited but tends to support the cost-effectiveness of ERP. There is need for well-designed trials to determine the cost-effectiveness of ERP from both the institutional and societal perspectives.