Background: Prosthetic breast reconstruction is most commonly performed using the two-stage (expander-implant) technique. However, with the advent of skin-sparing mastectomy and the use of acellular dermal matrices, one-stage prosthetic reconstruction has become more feasible. Prior studies have suggested that one-stage reconstruction has economic advantages relative to two-stage reconstruction despite a higher revision rate. This is the first cost-utility analysis to compare the cost and quality of life of both procedures to guide patient care. Methods: A comprehensive literature review was conducted using the MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases to include studies directly comparing matched patient cohorts undergoing single-stage or staged prosthetic reconstruction. Six studies were selected examining 791 direct-to-implant reconstructions and 1142 expander-implant reconstructions. Costs were derived adopting both patient and third-party payer perspectives. Utilities were derived by surveying an expert panel. Probabilities of clinically relevant complications were combined with cost and utility estimates to fit into a decision tree analysis. Results: The overall complication rate was 35 percent for single-stage reconstruction and 34 percent for expander-implant reconstruction. The authors' baseline analysis using Medicare reimbursement revealed a cost decrease of $525.25 and a clinical benefit of 0.89 quality-adjusted life-year when performing single-stage reconstructions, yielding a negative incremental cost-utility ratio. When using national billing, the incremental cost-utility further decreased, indicating that direct-to-implant breast reconstruction was the dominant strategy. Sensitivity analysis confirmed the robustness of the authors' conclusions. Conclusions: Direct-to-implant breast reconstruction is the dominant strategy when used appropriately. Surgeons are encouraged to consider single-stage reconstruction when feasible in properly selected patients.
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