Laparoscopic colectomies far less expensive than traditional procedures

Some laparoscopic surgeries are significantly less expensive for hospitals to execute than traditional open procedures.

Use of the procedure can save money expended by the provider and lost productivity on the patient's end due to missed work days, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Surgery.

The study looked specifically at colectomies, a fairly extensive removal and resection of the colon and rectum that's often used to treat major digestive disorders such as Crohn's disease, diverticulitis and colon cancer.

Researchers examined 4,160 patients who underwent colectomies, about half divided between laparoscopic and open procedures. Among those who underwent a laporoscopic colectomy, their total healthcare costs were $24,196. By comparison, patients undergoing an open colectomy had total costs of $31,606 for open approaches. The cost differential is $7,405, or 23 percent.

Patients who underwent the open procedure were also more likely to be readmitted to a hospital within the first year of discharge, and missed nearly three days more of work on average.

"We found that the use of minimally-invasive laparoscopic approaches in a select group of patients undergoing colectomy procedures resulted in significantly lower healthcare costs and resource utilization compared with open surgical approaches. This may expand access and lower the cost of patient care in the long term," said lead author Conor P. Delaney, M.D., of of University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland in a study announcement.

Laparoscopic procedures require only a few small incisions rather than one surgical incision. A variety of studies have suggested that this form of surgery leads to better outcomes.

However, at least one study has suggested that when patients receive information about the actual charges, they may opt for conventional surgery if the costs are lower. And minimally invasive surgeries are often underused at hospitals. 

To learn more:
- read the JAMA Surgery abstract 
- check out the announcement via Healio