Pre-surgical lung biopsy in management of solitary pulmonary nodules: a cost effectiveness analysis

Tissue diagnosis prior to thoracic surgery with curative intent is vital in thoracic lesions concerning for lung cancer. Methods of obtaining tissue diagnosis are variable within the United Kingdom.

We performed a model-based analysis to identify the most efficient method of diagnosis using both a health care perspective. Our analysis concerns adults in the UK presenting with a solitary pulmonary nodule suspicious for a primary lung malignancy, patients with more advanced disease (for example lymph node spread) were not considered. Model assumptions were derived from published sources and expert reviews, cost data were obtained from healthcare research group cost estimates (2016-17). Outcomes were measured in terms of costs experienced to healthcare trusts.

Our results show that CT guided percutaneous lung biopsy using an ambulatory approach, is the most cost-effective method of diagnosis. Indeed, using this approach, trust experience approximately half of the cost of an approach of surgical lung biopsy performed at the time of potential resection (‘frozen section’).

Whilst this analysis is limited to the specific scenario of a solitary pulmonary nodule, these findings have implications for the implementation of lung cancer screening in the UK, which is likely to result in increased numbers of patients with such early disease.