Preoperative use of recombinant human erythropoietin in pediatric orthopedics: a decision model for long-term outcomes

Michael G. Vitale, Benjamin D. Roye, David E. Ruchelsman, David P. Roye

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background context: Spine surgery for scoliosis is associated with significant blood loss and may require blood transfusion. The risks inherent in blood transfusion have inspired interventions, including human recombinant erythropoietin (rHuEPO), which has emerged as a safe and effective adjunct in minimizing exposure to allogenic blood in children undergoing scoliosis surgery. However, there is little information in the literature on their economic impact on the health-care system. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of rHuEPO in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. Study design/setting: We designed a decision analytic model capturing costs and potential long-term outcomes of transfusion-related complications to compare the cost-effectiveness of preoperative rHuEPO with a control group and a common alternative, preoperative autologous donation (PAD). Patient sample: This is a decision analytic model. Decision modeling relies on a summation of the probability of different clinical studies; no patients were specifically studied. Outcome measures: The standard cost-effectiveness ratio (C/E) of $50,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) was used as the threshold value for determining the cost-effectiveness of these two preoperative intervention strategies. Methods: From the model we calculated the probability that a patient would experience transfusion-related complications based on the mean number of allogenic units transferred as a result of scoliosis surgery. The standard C/E of $50,000 per QALY was used as the threshold value for determining the cost-effectiveness. Some aspects of the model were derived from retrospective data from the literature. Sensitivity analyses were also conducted to discover which variables, when changed within the accepted range, caused the final result of the model to change significantly. Results: Results indicated a cost per year-of-life-saved exceeding $1 million for the PAD arm and over $1.5 million for the rHuEPO arm. The low rates of transfusion in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis surgery and the relative safety of the blood supply create a scenario where even inexpensive interventions are not cost-effective. However, rHuEPO would become cost-effective if decreased transfusion rates or higher postoperative hematocrit resulted in decreased length of stay. Conclusion: The use of rHuEPO preoperatively and the use of PAD are not cost-effective although both techniques remain clinically effective tools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)292-300
Number of pages9
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Erythropoietin
  • Pediatric orthopedics
  • Scoliosis
  • Transfusion


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