Which unruptured cerebral aneurysms should be treated? A cost-utility analysis

S. Claiborne Johnston, Daryl R. Gress, James G. Kahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine which unruptured cerebral aneurysms should be treated considering the risks, benefits, and costs. Background: Asymptomatic unruptured cerebral aneurysms are commonly treated by surgical clipping or endovascular coil embolization to prevent subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Methods: We performed a cost-utility analysis comparing surgical clipping and endovascular coil embolization with no treatment for unruptured aneurysms. Eight clinical scenarios were defined based on aneurysm size, symptoms, and history of SAH from a different aneurysm. Health outcomes of a hypothetical cohort of 50-year-old women were modeled over the projected lifetime of the cohort. Costs were assessed from the societal perspective. We compared net quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and cost per QALY of each therapy to no treatment. Results: For an asymptomatic unruptured aneurysm less than 10 mm in diameter in patients with no history of SAH from a different aneurysm, both procedures resulted in a net loss in QALYs, and confidence intervals (CI) were not compatible with a benefit from treatment (clipping, loss of 1.6 QALY [95% CI 1.1 to 2.1]; coiling, loss of 0.6 QALY [95% CI 0.2 to 0.8]). For larger aneurysms (≥10 mm), those producing symptoms by compressing neighboring nerves and brain structures, or in patients with a history of SAH from a different aneurysm, treatment was cost-effective. Coiling appeared more effective and cost-effective than clipping but these differences depended on relatively uncertain model parameters. Conclusions: Treatment of small, asymptomatic, unruptured cerebral aneurysms in patients without a history of SAH worsens clinical outcomes, and thus is neither effective nor cost-effective. For aneurysms that are ≥10 mm or symptomatic, or in patients with a history of SAH, treatment appears to be cost-effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1806-1815
Number of pages10
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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