Cost-effectiveness evaluation of the inclusion of dry needling into an exercise program for subacromial pain syndrome: Evidence from a randomized clinical trial

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Objective. To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the inclusion of trigger point–dry needling (TrP-DN) into an exercise program for the management of subacromial pain syndrome. Methods. Fifty patients with unilateral subacromial pain syndrome were randomized with concealed allocation to exercise alone or exercise plus TrP-DN. Both groups were asked to perform an exercise program targeting the rotator cuff musculature twice daily for five weeks. Patients allocated to the exercise plus TrP-DN group also received dry needling during the second and fourth sessions. Societal costs and health-related quality of life (estimated by EuroQol-5D-5L) over a one-year follow-up were used to generate incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) ratios for each intervention. Results. Intention-to-treat analysis was possible for 48 (96%) of the participants. Those in the exercise group made more visits to medical doctors and received a greater number of other treatments (P < 0.001). The major contributor to societal costs (77%) was the absenteeism paid labor in favor of the exercise plus TrP-DN group (P = 0.03). The combination of exercise plus TrP-DN was less costly (mean difference cost/patient = €517.34, P = 0.003) than exercise alone. Incremental QALYs showed greater benefit for exercise plus TrP-DN (difference = 2.87, 95% confidence interval = 2.85–2.89). Therefore, the inclusion of TrP-DN into an exercise program was more likely to be cost-effective than an exercise program alone, with 99.5% of the iterations falling in the dominant area. Conclusions. The inclusion of TrP-DN into an exercise program was more cost-effective for individuals with subacromial pain syndrome than exercise alone. From a cost-benefit perspective, the inclusion of TrP-DN into multimodal management of patients with subacromial pain syndrome should be considered.

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