What is the cost effectiveness of lung transplantation?

Updated: Aug 19, 2019
  • Author: Bryan A Whitson, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: Mary C Mancini, MD, PhD, MMM  more...
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Highly sophisticated and extraordinary therapies, such as lung transplantation, are performed at a great cost to society. Presently, active research is being conducted on enhancing the patient's quality of life following lung transplantation. Several studies have reported a significant improvement in different quality-of-life domains, tested pretransplant and posttransplant. Other studies comparing candidates and lung transplant recipients have demonstrated significant improvements in energy levels, physical functioning, mobility, and symptoms such as dyspnea and anxiety. The recipients have expressed greater satisfaction with their lives and their health following lung transplantation.

Attempts to compute the costs of lung transplantation to general society and to determine the cost effectiveness of this therapy have been made. Cost evaluations should take into account both the actual cost and the improved quality of life provided by this therapy compared to standard care. The cost is expressed in units of QALY (quality-adjusted life-year), which reflects the real or anticipated survival time and health-related quality of life.

In 1995, the University of Washington Medical Center estimated that lung transplantation costs $176,817 per QALY compared with traditional therapy. [4]  A study of 3000 Medicare patients who received lung transplantations between 2005-2011 found that the average cost of lung transplantation was $135,622. However, high-volume transplant centers (35 or more lung transplantations annually) had a mean transplantation cost of $131,352. In addition, median length of stay in the intensive care unit fell significantly with increasing lung transplantation volume, from 14 days in low-volume centers to 11 days in intermediate centers and 10 days in high-volume centers. [5]

Additionally, after adjusting for recipient health risk, low-volume centers had an 11.66% greater transplant admission cost (P = 0.040), a 41% greater risk for in-hospital mortality (P = 0.015), and a 14% greater risk for early hospital readmission (P = 0.033) compared with high-volume centers. There was no significant difference in transplant cost, in-hospital mortality, or early hospital readmission between intermediate- and high-volume centers. [5]

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