Cost-effectiveness of consensus guideline based management of pancreatic cysts: The sensitivity and specificity required for guidelines to be cost-effective.

Conference Paper


Detection of cystic lesions of the pancreas has outpaced our ability to stratify low-grade cystic lesions from those at greater risk for pancreatic cancer, raising a concern for overtreatment.


We developed a Markov decision model to determine the cost-effectiveness of guideline-based management for asymptomatic pancreatic cysts. Incremental costs per quality-adjusted life year gained and survival were calculated for current management guidelines. A sensitivity analysis estimated the effect on cost-effectiveness and mortality if overtreatment of low-grade cysts is avoided, and the sensitivity and specificity thresholds required of methods of cyst stratification to improve costs expended.


"Surveillance" using current management guidelines had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $171,143/quality adjusted life year compared with no surveillance or operative treatment ("do nothing"). An incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for surveillance decreases to $80,707/quality adjusted life year if the operative overtreatment of low-grade cysts was avoided. Assuming a societal willingness-to-pay of $100,000/quality adjusted life year, the diagnostic specificity for high-risk cysts must be >67% for surveillance to be preferred over surgery and "do nothing." Changes in sensitivity alone cannot make surveillance cost-effective. Most importantly, survival in surveillance is worse than "do nothing" for 3 years after cyst diagnosis, although long-term survival is improved. The disadvantage is eliminated when overtreatment of low-grade cysts is avoided.


Current management of pancreatic cystic lesions is not cost-effective and may increase mortality owing to overtreatment of low-grade cysts. The specificity for risk stratification for high-risk cysts must be greater than 67% to make surveillance cost-effective.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Sharib, J; Esserman, L; Koay, EJ; Maitra, A; Shen, Y; Kirkwood, KS; Ozanne, EM

Published Date

  • October 2020

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 168 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 601 - 609

PubMed ID

  • 32739138

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8754171

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1532-7361

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0039-6060

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.surg.2020.04.052