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Despite evidence demonstrating the advantages of metered-dose inhalers with spacers (MDI-s), nebulization (NEB) remains the primary method of asthma treatment in some pediatric emergency departments (PEDs). There is a perception that delivering salbutamol by MDI-s is more costly than by NEB. This research evaluates the relative costs of MDI-s and NEB using local, hospital-specific, patient-level data.
Regression models estimated associations between the salbutamol inhalation method and costs, length of stay (LOS) in the PED and hospital, and the probability of admission. Our population was a random sample of 822 patients presenting with wheeze to the PED in 2008/2009. Control variables included age, sex, triage acuity, time of PED visit, other medications, and vitals. Costs were calculated using the prices and quantities of medical resources used per treatment. Probabilistic sensitivity analysis was used.
Treatment with MDI-s versus NEB was associated with an absolute decrease in hospitalization of 4.4% (p<0.05) and a 25-hour (p<0.001) reduction in average inpatient stay, after controlling for triage acuity and patient characteristics. This resulted in savings of $24/patient in the PED and $180/patient overall (p<0.001). Inpatient care accounted for more than 90% of total patient costs.
Our results suggest economic gains associated with MDI-s for salbutamol inhalation in PEDs. Sensitivity analyses show that this conclusion is not affected by changes in model parameters that may differ by jurisdiction. Since most facilities already collect the data used for this study, our methods could be adopted for a cross-jurisdictional account of the cost effectiveness of MDI-s.
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