To estimate the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of microwave endometrial ablation (MEA) and thermal balloon endometrial ablation (TBEA) for heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB), compared with the existing (first-generation) endometrial ablation (EA) techniques of transcervical resection (TCRE) and rollerball (RB) ablation, and hysterectomy.
Electronic databases, bibliographies of articles, and also experts in the field and relevant industry bodies were asked to provide information.
A detailed search strategy was carried out to identify systematic reviews and controlled trials of MEA and TBEA versus first-generation techniques for EA. In addition to electronic database searching, reference lists were hand-searched and information sought from manufacturers of EA devices and by experts in the field. A deterministic Markov model was developed to assess cost-effectiveness. Data for the model were taken from a range of sources.
The systematic review of first-generation EA techniques versus hysterectomy found that EA offered an alternative to hysterectomy for HMB, with fewer complications and a shorter recovery period. Satisfaction and effectiveness were high for both MEA and TBEA. Costs were lower with EA although the difference narrows over time. Second-generation EA techniques are an alternative treatment to first-generation techniques for HMB, and first-generation techniques are known to offer an alternative to hysterectomy. Although no trials of second-generation techniques and hysterectomy have been undertaken, it seems reasonable to assume that second-generation techniques also offer an alternative surgical treatment. Using the model to assess cost-effectiveness, costs were very slightly higher for MEA when compared to TBEA, and differences in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) were negligible. For MEA compared with transcervical resection of the endometrium (TCRE) and RB ablation, costs were slightly lower with MEA and MEA accrued very slightly more QALYs. Compared with hysterectomy, MEA costs less and accrues slightly fewer QALYs. For TBEA compared with TCRE and RB ablation, costs were lower with TBEA and TBEA accrued slightly more QALYs. Compared with hysterectomy, TBEA costs moderately less and accrues moderately fewer QALYs.
Overall, there were few significant differences between the outcomes of first- and second-generation techniques including bleeding, satisfaction and QoL measures and repeat surgery rates. Second-generation techniques had significantly shorter operating and theatre times and there appear to be fewer serious perioperative adverse effects with second-generation techniques and postoperative effects are similar. Compared with hysterectomy, TCRE and RB are quicker to perform and result in shorter hospitalisation and faster return to work. Hysterectomy results in more adverse effects and is more expensive, although the need for retreatment leads this difference to decrease over time. Satisfaction with hysterectomy is initially higher, but there is no significant difference after 2 years. The economic model suggests that second-generation techniques are more cost-effective than first-generation techniques of EA for HMB. Both TBEA and MEA appear to be less costly than hysterectomy, although the latter results in more QALYs. Further research is suggested to make direct comparisons of the cost-effectiveness of second-generation EA techniques, to carry out longer term follow-up for all methods of EA in RCTs, and to develop more sophisticated modelling studies. Further research is also recommended into HMB to establish health-state utility values, its surgical treatment, convalescence, complications of treatment, symptoms and patient satisfaction.