Estimated Costs of Treating Stress Urinary Incontinence in Elderly Women Using the AHCPR Clinical Practice Guidelines

Urinary incontinence affects 10 million elderly and is estimated to cost more than $10 billion annually. Treatments for this conditions vary widely in efficacy and cost. Using the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research urinary incontinence guideline, we calculated expected costs for three recommended treatments for stress urinary incontinence in elderly women: (1) behavioral therapy, (2) pharmacologic therapy, and (3) surgical therapy. We constructed decision trees for each treatment option and incorporated treatment efficacy rates stated in the guideline. Costs were determined from the literature.

Using a Markov cohort simulation, 10-year expected costs per patient, in 1994 dollars, were lowest for surgical therapies and were highest for behavioral therapy (needle suspension surgery, $25,388; phenlypropanolamine and estrogen, $62,021; and behavioral therapy, $68,924). All treatment strategies were less costly than that of untreated incontinence ($86,726). Sensitivity analysis revealed that the results were highly affected by the likelihood of the patient's entering a nursing home, the cost of nursing home care, and the long-term relapse rate after surgery.

In conclusion, on the basis of data from the urinary incontinence guideline, early surgical intervention is the least costly treatment for chronic stress incontinence in elderly women. Because the long-term effectiveness of most incontinence surgeries is uncertain, additional studies are necessary to substantiate these findings.