INTRODUCTION: Anorectal function testing is traditionally relegated to subspecialty centers. Yet, it is an office-based procedure that appears capable of triaging care for the many patients with Rome IV functional constipation that fail empiric over-the-counter therapy in general gastroenterology, as an alternative to empirical prescription drugs. We aimed to evaluate cost-effectiveness of routine anorectal function testing in this specific population.
METHODS: We performed a cost-effectiveness analysis from the patient perspective and a cost-minimization analysis from the insurer perspective to compare 3 strategies: (i) empiric prescription drugs followed by pelvic floor physical therapy (PFPT) for drug failure, (ii) empiric PFPT followed by prescription drugs for PFPT failure, or (iii) care directed by up-front anorectal function testing. Model inputs were derived from systematic reviews of prospective clinical trials, national cost data sets, and observational cohort studies of the impact of chronic constipation on health outcomes, healthcare costs, and work productivity.
RESULTS: The most cost-effective strategy was upfront anorectal function testing to triage patients to appropriate therapy, in which the subset of patients without anal hypocontractility on anorectal manometry and with a balloon expulsion time of at least 6.5 seconds would be referred to PFPT. In sensitivity analysis, empiric PFPT was more cost effective than empiric prescription drugs except for situations in which the primary goal of treatment was to increase bowel movement frequency. If adopted, gastroenterologists would refer ∼17 patients per year to PFPT, supporting feasibility.
DISCUSSION: Anorectal function testing seems to be an emergent technology to optimize cost-effective outcomes, overcoming testing costs by phenotyping care.