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J Am Coll Surg. 2009 Aug;209(2):170-179.e1-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2009.03.025. Epub 2009 May 28.

Treatment options for Graves disease: a cost-effectiveness analysis.

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Department of Surgery, Boston Medical Center, 88 East Newton St, #C515, Boston, MA 02118, USA.



First-line treatment for Graves disease is frequently 18 months of antithyroid medication (ATM). Controversy exists concerning the next best line of treatment for patients who have failed to achieve euthyroidism; options include lifelong ATM, radioactive iodine (RAI), or total thyroidectomy (TT). We aim to determine the most cost-effective option.


We performed a cost-effectiveness analysis comparing these different strategies. Treatment efficacy and complication data were derived from a literature review. Costs were examined from a health-care system perspective using actual Medicare reimbursement rates to an urban university hospital. Outcomes were measured in quality-adjusted life-years (QALY). Costs and effectiveness were converted to present values; all key variables were subjected to sensitivity analysis.


TT was the most cost-effective strategy, resulting in a gain of 1.32 QALYs compared with RAI (at an additional cost of 9,594 US dollars) and an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of 7,240 US dollars/QALY. RAI was the least costly option at 23,600 US dollars but also provided the least QALY (25.08 QALY). Once the cost of TT exceeds 19,300 US dollars, the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of lifelong ATM and TT reverse and lifelong ATM becomes the more cost-effective strategy at 15,000US dollars/QALY.


This is the first formal cost-effectiveness study in the US of the optimal treatment for patients with Graves disease who fail to achieve euthyroidism after 18 months of ATM. Our findings demonstrate that TT is more cost effective than RAI or lifelong ATM in these patients; this continues until the cost of TT becomes > 19,300 US dollars.

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