What value does society place on reconstructive surgery for facial paralysis?
In this prospective observational study of 348 naive participants, reconstructive surgery for facial paralysis was found to be of high value, with willingness to pay for reconstructive surgery increasing as House-Brackmann grade of severity of paralysis increased.
Willingness to pay may be a useful objective measure to inform questions of disease severity and the value of normal facial function.
Patients with facial paralysis are perceived negatively by society in a number of domains. Society’s perception of the health utility of varying degrees of facial paralysis and the value society places on reconstructive surgery for facial reanimation need to be quantified.
To measure health state utility of varying degrees of facial paralysis, willingness to pay (WTP) for a repair, and the subsequent value of facial reanimation surgery as perceived by society.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This prospective observational study conducted in an academic tertiary referral center evaluated a group of 348 casual observers who viewed images of faces with unilateral facial paralysis of 3 severity levels (low, medium, and high) categorized by House-Brackmann grade. Structural equation modeling was performed to understand associations among health utility metrics, WTP, and facial perception domains. Data were collected from July 16 to September 26, 2015.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Observer-rated (1) quality of life (QOL) using established health utility metrics (standard gamble, time trade-off, and a visual analog scale) and (2) their WTP for surgical repair.
Among the 348 observers (248 women [71.3%]; 100 men [28.7%]; mean [SD] age, 29.3 [11.6] years), mixed-effects linear regression showed that WTP increased nonlinearly with increasing severity of paralysis. Participants were willing to pay $3487 (95% CI, $2362-$4961) to repair low-grade paralysis, $8571 (95% CI, $6401-$11 234) for medium-grade paralysis, and $20 431 (95% CI, $16 273-$25 317) for high-grade paralysis. The dominant factor affecting the participants’ WTP was perceived QOL. Modeling showed that perceived QOL decreased with paralysis severity (regression coefficient, −0.004; 95% CI, −0.005 to −0.004; P < .001) and increased with attractiveness (regression coefficient, 0.002; 95% CI, 0.002 to 0.003; P < .001). Mean (SD) health utility scores calculated by the standard gamble metric for low- and high-grade paralysis were 0.98 (0.09) and 0.77 (0.25), respectively. Time trade-off and visual analog scale measures were highly correlated. We calculated mean (SD) WTP per quality-adjusted life-year, which ranged from $10 167 ($14 565) to $17 008 ($38 288) for low- to high-grade paralysis, respectively.
Conclusions and Relevance
Society perceives the repair of facial paralysis to be a high-value intervention. Societal WTP increases and perceived health state utility decreases with increasing House-Brackmann grade. This study demonstrates the usefulness of WTP as an objective measure to inform dimensions of disease severity and signal the value society places on proper facial function.
Level of Evidence
Su P, Ishii LE, Joseph A, Nellis J, Dey J, Bater K, Byrne PJ, Boahene KDO, Ishii M. Societal Value of Surgery for Facial Reanimation. JAMA Facial Plast Surg. Published online November 17, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2016.1419