To determine whether laparoscopic methods are more effective and cost-effective than open mesh methods of inguinal hernia repair, and then whether laparoscopic transabdominal preperitoneal (TAPP) repair is more effective and cost-effective than laparoscopic totally extraperitoneal (TEP).
Electronic databases. Conference proceedings. Manufacturers' submissions to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) were reviewed.
Selected studies were rigorously assessed. Dichotomous outcome data were combined using the relative risk method and continuous outcomes were combined using the Mantel-Haenszel weighted mean difference method. Time to return to usual activities was described using hazard ratios derived from individual patient data reanalysis. A review of economic evaluations undertaken by NICE in 2001 was updated and an economic evaluation was performed. The estimation of cost-effectiveness focused on the comparison of laparoscopic repair with open flat mesh. A Markov model incorporating the data from the systematic review was used to estimate cost-effectiveness for a time horizon up to 25 years.
Thirty-seven randomised control trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs met the inclusion criteria on effectiveness. Fourteen studies were included in the review of economic evaluations. Laparoscopic repair was associated with a faster return to usual activities and less persisting pain and numbness. There also appeared to be fewer cases of wound/superficial infection and haematoma. However, operation times are longer and there appears to be a higher rate of serious complications in respect of visceral (especially bladder) injuries. Mesh infection is very uncommon with similar rates noted between the surgical approaches. There is no apparent difference in the rate of hernia recurrence. Laparoscopic repair was more costly to the health service than open repair, with an estimated extra cost from studies conducted in the UK of about 300-350 pounds per patient. The point estimates of cost provided by the economic model also suggest that the laparoscopic techniques are more costly (approximately 100-200 pounds more per patient after 5 years). From the review of economic evaluations, the estimates of incremental cost per additional day at usual activities were between 86 pounds and 130 pounds. Where productivity costs were included, they eliminated the cost differential between laparoscopic and open repair. Additional analysis incorporating new trial evidence suggested that TEP was associated with significantly more recurrences than open mesh but these data did not greatly influence cost-effectiveness.
For the management of unilateral hernias, the base-case analysis and most of the sensitivity analysis suggest that open flat mesh is the least costly option but provides less quality adjusted life years (QALYs) than TEP or TAPP. TEP is likely to dominate TAPP (on average TEP is estimated to be less costly and more effective). It is likely that, for management of symptomatic bilateral hernias, laparoscopic repair would be more cost-effective as differences in operation time (a key cost driver) may be reduced and differences in convalescence time are more marked (hence QALYs will increase) for laparoscopic compared with open mesh repair. When possible repair of contralateral occult hernias is taken into account, TEP repair is most likely to be considered cost-effective at threshold values for the cost per additional QALY above 20,000 pounds. The increased adoption of laparoscopic techniques may allow patients to return to usual activities faster. This may, for some people, reduce any loss of income. For the NHS, increased use of laparoscopic repair would lead to an increased requirement for training and the risk of serious complications may be higher. Chronic pain should now be addressed prospectively using standard definitions and allowing assessment of the degree of pain. More evidence is required on the loss of utility caused by persisting pain and numbness, as well as serious complications resulting from minor surgery. Prospective population-based registries of new surgical procedures may be the best way to address this, as a complement to randomised trials assessing effectiveness. Further research relating to whether the balance of advantages and disadvantages changes when hernias are recurrent or bilateral is also required as current data are limited. Methodologically sound RCTs are needed to consider the relative merits and risks of TAPP and TEP. Further methodological research is required into the complexity of laparoscopic groin hernia repair and the improvement of performance that accompanies experience.