Cost-effectiveness evaluation of manual physical therapy versus surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome: Evidence from a randomized clinical trial

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U BACKGROUND: Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) results in substantial societal costs and can be treated either by nonsurgical or surgical approaches. U OBJECTIVE: To evaluate differences in cost-effectiveness of manual physical therapy versus surgery in women with CTS. U METHODS: In this randomized clinical trial, 120 women with a clinical and an electromyo-graphic diagnosis of CTS were randomized through concealed allocation to either manual physical therapy or surgery. Interventions consisted of 3 sessions of manual physical therapy, including desensitization maneuvers of the central nervous system, or decompression/release of the carpal tunnel. Societal costs and health-related quality of life (estimated by the European Quality of Life-5 Dimensions [EQ-5D] scale) over 1 year were used to generate incremental cost per quality-adjusted life year ratios for each treatment. U RESULTS: The analysis was possible for 118 patients (98%). Incremental quality-adjusted life years showed greater cost-effectiveness in favor of manual physical therapy (difference, 0.135; 95% confidence interval: 0.134, 0.136). Manual therapy was significantly less costly than surgery (mean difference in cost per patient, €2576; P<.001). Patients in the surgical group received a greater number of other treatments and made more visits to medical doctors than those receiving manual physical therapy (P = .02). Absenteeism from paid work was significantly higher in the surgery group (P<.001). The major contributors to societal costs were the treatment protocol (surgery versus manual therapy mean difference, €106 980) and absenteeism from paid work (surgery versus manual physical therapy mean difference, €42 224). U CONCLUSION: Manual physical therapy, including desensitization maneuvers of the central nervous system, has been found to be equally effective but less costly (ie, more cost-effective) than surgery for women with CTS. From a cost-benefit perspective, the proposed CTS manual physical therapy intervention can be considered.

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