Background: Brain laser interstitial thermal therapy (LITT) under magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guidance has recently gained US clinical approval for the ablation of soft, neurological tissue. LITT is a minimally invasive alternative to craniotomy. Objective: While safety and efficacy are the focus of most current LITT studies, it is unclear how acute care costs (inpatient care ± aftercare) of LITT compare to craniotomy in an academic medical center. Therefore, the purpose of this analysis is to examine these costs of using brain LITT under MRI guidance compared to craniotomy in complex anatomies. Methods: Consecutive patients treated at a single US center from 1 January 2010 to 21 October 2014 were retrospectively evaluated. Patients were included if they had a primary procedure for LITT or craniotomy (International Classification of Diseases, 9th revision, Clinical Modification [ICD-9-CM] procedure code 17.61 or ICD-9-CM procedure code 01.59, respectively) and were subgrouped according to their diagnosis of primary brain or metastatic brain cancer (ICD-9-CM 191.0–191.9 or ICD-9-CM 198.3, respectively). Patients were excluded if they had co-morbid conditions such as brain edema (ICD-9-CM 348.5). Patients were matched (LITT vs. craniotomy) based on diagnosis. Appropriate statistical analyses were undertaken to examine the year 2015 costs for care in all settings (acute hospital and post-hospital care, i.e., skilled nursing facility, rehabilitation, and home care) were examined. Results: In patients treated for a primary brain cancer, there was no statistical difference in the acute and post-care costs of LITT and craniotomy (inverse variance, mean difference [MD], random effects model): MD = −US$1669; 95% confidence interval (CI) −$8192 to $4854; P = 0.62. When examining difficult to access primary malignancies, no difference was found: MD = −US$4719; 95% CI −$12,183 to $2745; P = 0.22. In metastatic brain cancer, LITT was found to be significantly less costly than craniotomy: MD = −US$6522; 95% CI −$11,911 to −$1133; P = 0.02. Conclusions: In patients with metastatic brain cancer, LITT is less costly than craniotomy. Patients receiving LITT had a significantly shorter length of hospital stay, were significantly older, and were more likely to be discharged home. The use of LITT may be a reasonable option in bundled episodes of care for brain cancer and may fit into the Bundled Payment for Care Improvement (BPCI) program being evaluated by Medicare and providers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalPharmacoEconomics - Open
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Barnes Jewish Hospital
  • Home Healthcare
  • Inpatient Rehabilitation Facility
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging Guidance
  • Skilled Nursing Facility


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