OBJECTIVES: Pleural and pericardial effusions can lead to severe outcomes. Cancer accounts for an estimated 40% of all pleural effusions. About half of the effusions diagnosed in cancer patients are malignant, while the rest are nonmalignant and may occur as complications of the cancer treatments themselves. Pleural and pericardial effusions are associated with increased morbidity and mortality as well as high healthcare costs. The objective of this study was to review the economic burden of pleural and pericardial effusions in cancer patients.

METHODS: A systematic search of the English-language medical literature published between 1990 and 2006 was conducted. Additional publications and conference proceedings were retrieved from the article bibliographies and included in the review. Articles selected include prospective or retrospective studies specifically designed to examine burden of illness, direct medical costs, indirect costs, or cost drivers associated with pleural or pericardial effusions in cancer patients. All original costs were reported, with adjusted figures (to 2006 US dollars) presented in parentheses using the medical care component of the consumer price index from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

RESULTS: Of 15 studies identified, 11 met selection criteria and were reviewed in detail. Seven references reported data on costs associated with pleural or pericardial effusions in cancer patients. The cost per episode of pleural effusion ranged from $3,391 (2006 US $4,387) for outpatient treatment with pleural catheter to $20,996 ($37,341) for talc pleurodesis. The most common treatment for malignant pleural effusion is chest tube insertion and drainage with instillation of a sclerosing agent. Key cost drivers for significant pleural effusions included operating room costs, surgeon fees, and drugs such as sclerosing agents. Resources used for management of low grade pleural effusions include chest x-rays, physician outpatient visits, diuretics, and corticosteroids. For the treatment of pericardial effusion, the costs of performing pericardiocentesis and a pericardial window procedure were estimated to be $4,446 and $14,641 (2006 US$), respectively. Cost components for pericardial effusions, depending on treatment modality selected, included echocardiogram (3–10%), intensive care unit (17–56%), sclerosant (1–4%), surgeon fees (28–29%), anesthesia fees (20%), and operating room costs (31%).

CONCLUSIONS: Pleural and pericardial effusions lead to significant direct medical costs, contributing to the total cost of care among patients treated for cancer. These costs should be included in the economic evaluation of therapies that increase the risk of pleural and pericardial effusions. Given the scarcity of published analyses in this area, additional research is warranted to better understand the burden of pleural and pericardial effusions.

Disclosures: Novartis provided funding for this review.

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