Background: The pulmonary artery catheter (PAC) remains widely used in acute lung injury (ALI) despite known complications and little evidence of improved short-term mortality. Concurrent with NHLBI ARDS Clinical Trials Network Fluid and Catheters Treatment Trial (FACTT), we conducted a prospectively-defined comparison of healthcare costs and long-term outcomes for care with a PAC vs. central venous catheter (CVC). We explored if use of the PAC in ALI is justified by a beneficial cost-effectiveness profile. Methods: We obtained detailed bills for the initial hospitalization. We interviewed survivors using the Health Utilities Index Mark 2 questionnaire at 2, 6, 9 and 12 m to determine quality of life (QOL) and post-discharge resource use. Outcomes beyond 12 m were estimated from federal databases. Incremental costs and outcomes were generated using MonteCarlo simulation. Results: Of 1001 subjects enrolled in FACTT, 774 (86%) were eligible for long-term follow-up and 655 (85%) consented. Hospital costs were similar for the PAC and CVC groups ($96.8k vs. $89.2k, p = 0.38). Post-discharge to 12 m costs were higher for PAC subjects ($61.1k vs. 45.4k, p = 0.03). One-year mortality and QOL among survivors were similar in PAC and CVC groups (mortality: 35.6% vs. 31.9%, p = 0.33; QOL [scale: 0-1]: 0.61 vs. 0.66, p = 0.49). MonteCarlo simulation showed PAC use had a 75.2% probability of being more expensive and less effective (mean cost increase of $14.4k and mean loss of 0.3 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs)) and a 94.2% probability of being higher than the $100k/QALY willingness-to-pay threshold. Conclusion: PAC use increased costs with no patient benefit and thus appears unjustified for routine use in ALI. Trial Registration: www.clinicaltrials.gov NCT00234767.
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