Is Physician Anesthesia Cost-Effective?

J. P. Abenstein, Kirsten Hall Long, Brian P. McGlinch, Niki M. Dietz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


One of the most controversial issues in anesthesia is whether nonmedically directed nurse anesthetists are relatively more cost-effective than anesthesiologists in the provision of anesthesia care. We electronically surveyed anesthesia practices throughout the United States to estimate the range in anesthesia professional costs from the payer perspective. Using this survey data on anesthesia reimbursement and published outcomes studies, we developed an ad hoc model to estimate the cost-effectiveness of physician-directed anesthesia relative to a nonmedically directed nurse anesthetist model of care from the payer perspective. Cost-effectiveness ratios were defined as the ratio of incremental costs associated with physician anesthesia relative to the estimated incremental life expectancy gains with this model of care (i.e., dollars per year of life saved [$/YLS]). Reference case results suggest that physician anesthesia is cost saving with an estimated incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of -$2,601/YLS for a younger privately insured patient and an estimated cost-effectiveness ratio of -$4,410/YLS for an elderly Medicare insured patient. Cost-effectiveness ratios ranged from -$4,410 to $38,778/YLS in univariate and multivariate sensitivity analyses across payer types. Results were most sensitive to assumed differences in reimbursement (commercial conversion factors) and to mortality rate assumptions by provider type. This analysis offers economic evidence in support of the physician anesthesia model of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)750-757
Number of pages8
JournalAnesthesia and analgesia
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2004


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