Inpatient management remains the standard of care for treatment of febrile neutropenia (FN) in children with cancer. Clinical data suggest, however, that outpatient management might be a safe and efficacious alternative for patients with low-risk FN episodes.
A cost-utility model was created to compare 4 treatment strategies for low-risk FN. The base case considered pediatric cancer patients with low-risk FN. The model used a health care payer's perspective and a time horizon of 1 FN episode. Four treatment strategies were evaluated: (1) entire treatment in hospital with intravenous antibiotics (HospIV); (2) early discharge consisting of 48 hours of inpatient observation with intravenous antibiotics followed by oral outpatient treatment (EarlyDC); (3) entirely outpatient management with intravenous antibiotics (HomeIV); and (4) entirely outpatient management with oral antibiotics (HomePO). Outcome measures were quality-adjusted FN episodes (QAFNEs), costs (Canadian dollars), and incremental cost-effectiveness ratios. Parameter uncertainty was assessed with probabilistic sensitivity analyses.
The most cost-effective strategy was HomeIV. It was cost-saving ($2732 vs $2757) and more effective (0.66 vs 0.55 QAFNE) as compared with HomePO. EarlyDC was slightly more effective (0.68 QAFNE) but significantly more expensive ($5579) than HomeIV, which resulted in an unacceptably high incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of more than $130 000 per QAFNE. HospIV was the least cost-effective strategy because it was more expensive ($14 493) and less effective (0.65 QAFNE) than EarlyDC.
The findings of this decision-analytic model indicate that the substantially higher costs of inpatient management cannot be justified on the basis of safety and efficacy considerations or patient/parent preferences.