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Neurosurgery. 1997 Oct;41(4):757-64; discussion 764-6.

Surgery versus stereotactic radiosurgery for small, operable cerebral arteriovenous malformations: a clinical and cost comparison.

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Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Cerebral arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) may cause stroke and death in young patients. For small AVMs, the major curative treatment options are surgery and stereotactic radiosurgery (SR). Although the initial costs and risks of SR are less, there is a latency to cure and ultimately the success rate is lower than with surgery. Thus, these two treatment modalities were compared with respect to clinical outcomes and associated costs by means of a cost-effectiveness analysis.


A decision analysis model was developed using Smltree software (J.P. Hollenberg, Roslyn, NY). Probability estimates for cure and complications for both therapies were derived from the literature. Utility values for minor and major stroke were measured in patients with AVMs who were treated at the University of Toronto clinic, using the standard gamble technique. Costs were obtained from several sources, including the case costing systems of several hospitals in Ontario, Canada.


Surgery confers a 0.98 quality-adjusted life year (QALY) advantage over SR, at an additional cost of $6937 per patient. Thus, from a societal perspective, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio is $7100 per QALY for a patient treated surgically. The result is sensitive to only two variables: surgical morbidity and surgical mortality. However, the preferred treatment strategy changes to favor SR only at the extreme high end of the possible range for these variables, when the rate of permanent neurological morbidity resulting from surgery exceeds 12% or the surgical mortality rate exceeds 4%.


In the treatment of small AVMs, surgery confers a large clinical benefit over SR. The reason is that surgery protects the patient from hemorrhage earlier and with greater success than does SR. The associated cost-effectiveness ratio, $7100/QALY, is highly economically attractive. Therefore, surgery achieves important improvements in clinical outcomes and is associated with an excellent ratio of incremental costs per QALY gained.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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