Background: Volume of operative cases may be an important factor associated with improved survival for early-stage pancreatic cancer. Most high-volume pancreatic centers are also academic institutions, which have been associated with additional healthcare costs. We hypothesized that at high-volume centers, the value of the extra survival outweighs the extra cost. Study Design: This retrospective cohort study used data from the California Cancer Registry linked to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development database from January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2012. Stage I-II pancreatic cancer patients who underwent resection were included. Multivariable analyses estimated overall survival and 30-day costs at low- vs high-volume pancreatic surgery centers. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) and incremental net benefit (INB) were estimated, and statistical uncertainty was characterized using net benefit regression. Results: Of 2,786 patients, 46.5% were treated at high-volume centers and 53.5% at low-volume centers. There was a 0.45-year (5.4 months) survival benefit (95% CI 0.21–0.69) and a $7,884 extra cost associated with receiving surgery at high-volume centers (95% CI $4,074–$11,694). The ICER was $17,529 for an additional year of survival (95% CI $7,997–$40,616). For decision-makers willing to pay more than $20,000 for an additional year of life, high-volume centers appear cost-effective. Conclusions: Although healthcare costs were greater at high-volume centers, patients undergoing pancreatic surgery at high-volume centers experienced a survival benefit (5.4 months). The extra cost of $17,529 per additional year is quite modest for improved survival and is economically attractive by many oncology standards.
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