Therapeutic hypothermia in severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy: a cost-effectiveness analysis

Claire H. Packer, Alyssa R. Hersh, James A. Sargent, Aaron B. Caughey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The incidence of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is 0.5 per 1000 live births. Current standard treatment is therapeutic hypothermia (cooling) begun within 6 hours of life. In infants with severe HIE, this results in fewer deaths; however, more infants survive with major neurodevelopmental disability. Objective: We sought to determine whether cooling is cost-effective compared to no cooling in cases of severe HIE, and to compare it to the cost-effectiveness of cooling in cases of moderate HIE. Study design: A decision analytic model using TreeAge Pro (2020) software was designed comparing cooling to no cooling in a cohort of 10,000 term neonates with HIE. Model inputs were derived from the literature. Utilities were applied to life expectancy to generate quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). All costs and QALYs were discounted at an annual rate of 3%. The strategy was considered cost-effective if the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) was below the willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000 per QALY. Sensitivity analyses were conducted to assess the robustness of the results. Results: Cooling for the management of severe HIE resulted in increased costs and increased QALYs, with an ICER of $6864/QALY. In our theoretical cohort, cooling resulted in 835 fewer neonatal deaths, but 52 additional cases of severe neurological disability with cooling due to increased survival. When varying the probability of a healthy child with cooling in univariate sensitivity analysis, cooling was found to be the cost-effective strategy across all ranges and the dominant (lower costs, higher QALYs) strategy above 68% (baseline estimate: 63%). Multivariate sensitivity analysis found cooling was the cost-effective strategy 99.7% of the time. Conclusion: Cooling is the cost-effective intervention with improved outcomes for neonates with severe perinatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy over a wide range of assumptions. Despite the increased cost, more neonates survive morbidity free when compared with no cooling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain injury
  • hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy
  • major neurodevelopmental disability
  • Neonatal mortality
  • therapeutic hypothermia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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