Tanner S, Sprague S, Jeray K. Users’ guide to the orthopaedic literature: What is a cost-effectiveness analysis?. Indian J Orthop 2008;42:126-36.


As the cost of healthcare continue to rise, orthopaedic surgeons are being pressured to practice cost-effective healthcare. Consequently, economic evaluation of treatment options are being reported more commonly in medical and surgical literature. As new orthopaedic procedures and treatments may improve patient outcome and function over traditional treatment options, the effect of the potentially higher costs of new treatments should be formally evaluated. Unfortunately, the resources available for healthcare spending are typically limited. Therefore, cost-effectiveness analyses have become an important and useful tool in informing which procedure or treatment to implement into practice.

Cost-effectiveness analysis is a type of economic analysis that compares both the clinical outcomes and the costs of new treatment options to current treatment options or standards of care. For a clinician to be able to apply the results of a cost-effectiveness analysis to their practice, they must be able to critically review the available literature. Conducting an economic analysis is a challenging process, which has resulted in a number of published economic analyses that are of lower quality and may be fraught with bias. It is important that the reader of an economic analysis or cost-effectiveness analysis have the skills required to properly evaluate and critically appraise the methodology used before applying the recommendations to their practice.

Using the principles of evidence-based medicine and the questions outlined in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Users’ Guide to the Medical Literature, this article attempts to illustrate how to critically appraise a cost-effectiveness analysis in the orthopaedic surgery literature.

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