Objective: To determine the most cost-effective approach to the management of distal ureteral stones in children given the potential for recurrent renal colic during a trial of passage versus potential stent discomfort and complications of ureteroscopy. Methods: We developed a decision tree to project costs and clinical outcomes associated with observation, medical explusive therapy (MET), and ureteroscopy for the management of an index patient with a 4-mm-distal ureteral stone. We determined which strategy would be least costly and offer the most pain-free days within 30days of diagnosis. We performed a one-way sensitivity analysis on the probability of successful stone passage with MET. We obtained probabilities from the literature and costs from the 2016 Pediatric Health Information System Database. Results: Ureteroscopy was the costliest strategy but maximized the number of pain-free days within 30days of diagnosis ($5282/29 pain-free days). MET was less costly than ureteroscopy but also less effective ($615/21.8 pain-free days). Observation cost more than MET and was also less effective ($2139/15.5 pain-free days). The one-way sensitivity analysis on the probability of successful stone passage with MET demonstrated that ureteroscopy always has the highest net monetary benefits value and is therefore the recommended strategy given a fixed willingness-to-pay. Discussion: Using a rigorous decision-science approach, we found that ureteroscopy is the recommended strategy in children with small distal ureteral stones. Although it costs more than MET, it resulted in more pain-free days in the first 30days following diagnosis given the faster resolution of the stone episode.
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