Background and objective: The randomized, patient- and observer-blinded study was performed in 120 patients undergoing ear, nose and throat surgery to test the hypothesis that intravenous anaesthesia with propofol–remifentanil when compared with a balanced anaesthesia technique using isoflurane–alfentanil improves the speed of recovery, minimizes postoperative side-effects and, thus, leads to an improved quality of recovery without increasing total costs.
Methods: The total costs for each anaesthesia technique were calculated considering drug acquisition costs, personnel costs for the additional time spent in the operating room and the postanaesthesia care unit until fast-tracking eligibility, and the costs to treat the side-effects during and after operation.
Results: The times from the end of surgery to tracheal extubation and the time until leaving the operating room were not different between the two groups. However, more patients receiving intravenous anaesthesia (80 versus 49%) were eligible for fast tracking and thus could bypass the recovery room. This was associated with an average cost saving of €6.00 per patient. However, intravenous anaesthesia was associated with higher total costs (€89 versus €78) mainly because of higher acquisition costs of the anaesthetics (€34.60 versus €16.50). There was no difference in the quality of recovery as measured by a Quality of Recovery score and patient satisfaction between the two groups.
Conclusions: The higher acquisition costs of the intravenous anaesthetics propofol and remifentanil cannot be compensated for by improved speed of recovery. This anaesthesia technique is more cost intensive than balanced anaesthesia using isoflurane and alfentanil.