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Surgery. 2017 Jan;161(1):116-126. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2016.06.076. Epub 2016 Nov 10.

Cost-effectiveness of active surveillance versus hemithyroidectomy for micropapillary thyroid cancer.

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Endocrine Surgery Section, Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA.
Department of Surgery, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA.
Endocrine Surgery Section, Department of Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Electronic address:



The management of low-risk micropapillary thyroid cancer <1 cm in size has come into question, because recent data have shown that nonoperative active surveillance of micropapillary thyroid cancer is a viable alternative to hemithyroidectomy. We conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis to help decide between observation versus operation.


We constructed Markov models for active surveillance and hemithyroidectomy. The reference case was a 40-year-old patient with recently diagnosed, low-risk micropapillary thyroid cancer. Costs and health utilities were determined using extensive literature review. The willingness-to-pay threshold was set at $100,000/quality-adjusted life year gained. Deterministic and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were performed to account for uncertainty in the model's variables.


Active surveillance is dominant (less expensive and more quality-adjusted life years) for a health utility <0.01 below that for disease-free, posthemithyroidectomy state, or for a remaining life expectancy of <2 years. For a utility difference ≥0.02, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (the ratio of the difference in costs between active surveillance and hemithyroidectomy divided by the difference in quality-adjusted life years) for hemithyroidectomy is <$100,000/QALY gained and thus cost-effective. For a utility difference of 0.11-the reference case scenario-the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for hemithyroidectomy is $4,437/quality-adjusted life year gained.


The cost-effectiveness of hemithyroidectomy is highly dependent on patient disutility associated with active surveillance. In patients who would associate nonoperative management with at least a modest decrement in quality of life, hemithyroidectomy is cost-effective.

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