Short-Term Out-of-Pocket and Total Costs of Care for Treatment of Early-Stage Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer, is one of the deadliest cancers worldwide. Early-stage HCC can be treated with ablation, surgical resection, and liver transplant, with transplant having a superior survival rate. Ablation destroys liver tumors without removing them, and surgical resection removes part or all of an organ. While studies have evaluated costs for treatment of HCC, they have not focused on individual treatment choices or factors that may increase the cost of treatment.  

In a study in the American Journal of Roentgenology, Dr. Art Sedrakyan, professor of population health sciences and health care policy and research in cardiothoracic surgery, and colleagues compare the total and patient out-of-pocket costs for ablation, surgical resection, and transplant in the management of early-stage HCC. Researchers also identified factors predictive of those costs. 

The study evaluated a sample of 1067 Medicare beneficiaries. Researchers found that ablation resulted in lower total costs than surgical resection. In turn, surgical resection had lower costs than transplant for the index procedure, the 30-day post-procedure period, and the 90-day post-procedure period. Assignment to surgical treatment was independently predictive of significantly higher costs in comparison with ablation. Results may inform future cost-effectiveness analyses comparing the three treatment options for early-stage HCC. 

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