Background Expectant management (EM) and early open repair (OR) are safe and effective as initial management strategies for minimally symptomatic inguinal hernia in male patients. Extended follow-up of patients in EM protocols have shown that most patients will eventually require repair, but it is not clear which strategy is less costly over the long term. Methods We constructed a mathematical model to compare 3rd-party payer expenditures for EM vs OR or laparoscopic repair in a simulated cohort of patients with inguinal hernia. Cohort characteristics and expenditures were calibrated to recent randomized trials that reported initial follow-up and expenditures at 2 years and long-term crossover rates from EM to OR. Results Cost comparisons between OR and EM are sensitive to direct long-term costs of inpatient and outpatient care, the likelihood of crossover from EM to operation, cost differences between OR and laparoscopic repair, and the net present value of longer-term costs. Conclusions Our findings suggest that short-term costs of EM are less than those of OR and Lap-R, but early OR provides the highest long-term savings.
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