Cost effectiveness of interventions for lateral epicondylitis: results from a randomised controlled trial in primary care.

I.B.C. Korthals-de Bos, N. Smidt, M.W. van Tulder, M.P.M.H. Rutten-van Molken, H.J. Ader, D.A.W.M. van der Windt, W.J.J. Assendelft, L.M. Bouter

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    OBJECTIVE: Lateral epicondylitis is a common complaint, with an annual incidence between 1% and 3% in the general population. The Dutch College of General Practitioners in The Netherlands has issued guidelines that recommend a wait-and-see policy. However, these guidelines are not evidence based. DESIGN AND SETTING: This paper presents the results of an economic evaluation in conjunction with a randomised controlled trial to evaluate the effects of three interventions in primary care for patients with lateral epicondylitis. PATIENTS AND INTERVENTIONS: Patients with pain at the lateral side of the elbow were randomised to one of three interventions: a wait-and-see policy, corticosteroid injections or physiotherapy. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES AND RESULTS: Clinical outcomes included general improvement, pain during the day, elbow disability and QOL. The economic evaluation was conducted from a societal perspective. Direct and indirect costs (in 1999 values) were measured by means of cost diaries over a period of 12 months. Differences in mean costs between groups were evaluated by applying non-parametric bootstrap techniques. The mean total costs per patient for corticosteroid injections were euro430, compared with euro631 for the wait-and-see policy and euro921 for physiotherapy. After 12 months, the success rate in the physiotherapy group (91%) was significantly higher than in the injection group (69%), but only slightly higher than in the wait-and-see group (83%). The differences in costs and effects showed no dominance for any of the three groups. The incremental cost-utility ratios were (approximately): euro7000 per utility gain for the wait-and-see policy versus corticosteroid injections; euro12000 per utility gain for physiotherapy versus corticosteroid injections, and euro34500 for physiotherapy versus the wait-and-see policy. CONCLUSIONS: The results of this economic evaluation provided no reason to update or amend the Dutch guidelines for GPs, which recommend a wait-and-see policy for patients with lateral epicondylitis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)185-195
    Number of pages11
    JournalPharmaco Economics
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2004


    • Adolescent
    • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
    • Adult
    • Aged
    • Anesthetics
    • Cost of Illness
    • Cost-Benefit Analysis
    • Health Care Costs
    • Health Services Research
    • Humans
    • Injections
    • Intradermal
    • Lidocaine
    • Local
    • Middle Aged
    • Netherlands
    • Observation
    • Physical Therapy Modalities
    • Primary Health Care
    • Tennis Elbow
    • Treatment Outcome
    • economics
    • methods
    • therapeutic use
    • therapy
    • utilization


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