Study finds cochlear implants cost-effective in children

Technology improves quality of life and saves $50,000 + over child's lifetime

Researchers at Johns Hopkins report that cochlear implants, electronic devices surgically implanted behind the ear to bring sound to profoundly deaf people, not only improve children's quality of life, but also are highly cost-effective, with an expected lifetime savings of $53,198. The study, published in the Aug. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), is the first to evaluate the cost of quality-of-life improvements in pediatric cochlear implant patients using U.S. cost data, the authors say.

According to Neil R. Powe, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., professor of medicine, epidemiology and health policy and management at Hopkins and one of the study's co-authors, the findings linking quality of life and cost-savings are unusual. "Most new interventions in medical care that improve health also raise the cost. In this case, we've found that when you include all the associated costs and consequences, the implant actually saves society money in the long term," he says. The cost-benefit comes in the form of fewer demands on special education and greater wage-earning opportunities of implant recipients.

Powe and his colleagues conducted a cost-utility analysis, measuring a cochlear implant's effect on quality of life against the costs of the device. They surveyed parents of children with implants, all patients at The Listening Center at Johns Hopkins. The children averaged 7.4 years of age with 1.9 years of implant use. Parents rated their children's health "now," "immediately before" and "1-year before" the implant, through a standard series of methods.

The team also estimated the costs directly associated with the implant (device, surgery, rehabilitation, maintenance, etc.) and those indirectly affected by the device (time off work, travel, and change in educational costs, etc.), as well as cost savings.

In 1992, cochlear impla

Contact: Melissa Murray
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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