Tonsillectomy compared with conservative management in patients over 16 years with recurrent sore throat: the NATTINA RCT and economic evaluation
Wilson JA, Fouweather T, Stocken DD, Homer T, Haighton C, Rousseau N, O'Hara J, Vale L, Wilson R, Carnell S, Wilkes S, Morrison J, Ah-See K, Carrie S, Hopkins C, Howe N, Hussain M, Lindley L, MacKenzie K, McSweeney L, Mehanna H, Raine C, Whelan RS, Sullivan F, von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff A, Teare D
Record ID 32018005491
Authors' objectives: The place of tonsillectomy in the management of sore throat in adults remains uncertain. To establish the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of tonsillectomy, compared with conservative management, for tonsillitis in adults, and to evaluate the impact of alternative sore throat patient pathways. Sore throats cost the NHS over £120M per annum, including ≈ £60M for general practitioner (GP) consultations and medical therapy. The place of tonsillectomy in the management of sore throat remains uncertain. Clinical To establish the clinical effectiveness of tonsillectomy, compared with conservative management, for tonsillitis in adults. To report the number of adverse events (AEs), visits to the GP/walk-in clinic/accident and emergency, prescriptions issued and additional interventions required to manage sore throats and related events through weekly Sore Throat Alert Return (STAR) response data and primary care patient records. To adjust the estimate of effectiveness in the light of other baseline covariates, including severity of tonsillitis. To evaluate the impact of alternative sore throat patient pathways by observation and statistical modelling of outcomes. To assess to what extent trial participants were representative of the total population of sore throat patients referred to ear, nose and throat (ENT) clinics. To inform future research.
Authors' results and conclusions: There was a median of 27 (interquartile range 12–52) sore throats over the 24-month follow-up. A smaller number of sore throats was reported in the tonsillectomy arm [median 23 (interquartile range 11–46)] than in the conservative management arm [median 30 (interquartile range 14–65)]. On an intention-to-treat basis, there were fewer sore throats in the tonsillectomy arm (incident rate ratio 0.53, 95% confidence interval 0.43 to 0.65). Sensitivity analyses confirmed this, as did the secondary outcomes. There were 52 episodes of post-operative haemorrhage reported in 231 participants undergoing tonsillectomy (22.5%). There were 47 re-admissions following tonsillectomy (20.3%), 35 relating to haemorrhage. On average, tonsillectomy was more costly and more effective in terms of both sore throat days avoided and quality-adjusted life-years gained. Tonsillectomy had a 100% probability of being considered cost-effective if the threshold for an additional quality-adjusted life year was £20,000. Tonsillectomy had a 69% probability of having a higher net benefit than conservative management. Trial processes were deemed to be acceptable. Patients who received surgery were unanimous in reporting to be happy to have received it. The tonsillectomy arm had fewer sore throat days over 24 months than the conservative management arm, and had a high probability of being considered cost-effective over the ranges considered. Further work should focus on when tonsillectomy should be offered. National Trial of Tonsillectomy IN Adults has assessed the effectiveness of tonsillectomy when offered for the current UK threshold of disease burden. Further research is required to define the minimum disease burden at which tonsillectomy becomes clinically effective and cost-effective. Primary outcome The participants in this trial reported a median of 27 [interquartile range (IQR) 12–52] sore throats over the full 24 months of follow-up. Fewer sore throats were reported in the tonsillectomy arm (median 23, IQR 11–46) than in the conservative management arm (median 30, IQR 14–65). When the primary outcome (total sore throats) was compared between the two randomised arms on an ITT basis, a reduction in sore throats was seen in the tonsillectomy arm. The tonsillectomy arm had 0.53 [IRR, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.43 to 0.65] times the total sore throat days over the 24-month period than those in the conservative management arm. Sensitivity analyses on the ITT population confirmed this result. The analysis of the per-protocol population of 224 participants had, on average, a greater reduction in the number of sore throats, with patients in the tonsillectomy arm having 0.42 (IRR 95% CI 0.31 to 0.55) times the total score throats compared with the conservative management arm. Around 25% of participants did not receive the treatment that they were randomised to, which meant that some opted not to receive a tonsillectomy and some opted to cross to tonsillectomy. There is evidence to suggest that those with larger numbers of sore throats following randomisation were more likely to either opt for or remain in the tonsillectomy arm. Conversely, those with slightly smaller numbers of sore throats following randomisation were more likely to remain in conservative management or opt out of the tonsillectomy arm. Despite these crossovers, the ITT, per-protocol and per-treated analyses all confirmed that there was a significant reduction in total sore throats for those randomised to tonsillectomy. Tonsillectomy in adults is a clinically effective intervention. It was more costly but had a high probability of being considered cost-effective over the range of analyses conducted. Participants with recurrent tonsillitis, who met current UK NHS guidelines to undergo tonsillectomy, suffered significantly fewer sore throat days over 24 months than similar participants treated conservatively. How should health services react? Pre-NATTINA, UK guidelines were a translation of level 1 evidence in children, applied to adults. Access to tonsillectomy in the UK was governed by application of national guidance, which is predicated on a qualifying number of episodes of tonsillitis. NATTINA participants in the tonsillectomy arm reported, on average, fewer healthcare contacts, fewer sore throat days and higher QALYs than those in the conservative management arm. Within the UK, tonsillectomy is listed as a ‘procedure of limited clinical value’ (The Royal College of Surgeons of England. Procedures of Limited Clinical Value: Royal College of Surgeons Briefing. London: The Royal College of Surgeons of England; 2011). To the best of our knowledge, NATTINA is the first definitive trial to demonstrate that tonsillectomy performed according to the current UK national guidelines is effective for patients, and the probability of it being considered cost-effective is high. Guideline reassessment, in particular how guidelines translate into healthcare commissioning, is called for.
Authors' methods: This was a multicentre, randomised controlled trial comparing tonsillectomy with conservative management. The trial included a qualitative process evaluation and an economic evaluation. The study took place at 27 NHS secondary care hospitals in Great Britain. A total of 453 eligible participants with recurrent sore throats were recruited to the main trial. Patients were randomised on a 1 : 1 basis between tonsil dissection and conservative management (i.e. deferred surgery) using a variable block-stratified design, stratified by (1) centre and (2) severity. The primary outcome measure was the total number of sore throat days over 24 months following randomisation. The secondary outcome measures were the number of sore throat episodes and five characteristics from Sore Throat Alert Return, describing severity of the sore throat, use of medications, time away from usual activities and the Short Form questionnaire-12 items. Additional secondary outcomes were the Tonsil Outcome Inventory-14 total and subscales and Short Form questionnaire-12 items 6 monthly. Evaluation of the impact of alternative sore throat patient pathways by observation and statistical modelling of outcomes against baseline severity, as assessed by Tonsil Outcome Inventory-14 score at recruitment. The incremental cost per sore throat day avoided, the incremental cost per quality-adjusted life-year gained based on responses to the Short Form questionnaire-12 items and the incremental net benefit based on costs and responses to a contingent valuation exercise. A qualitative process evaluation examined acceptability of trial processes and ramdomised arms. The decliners who provided data tended to have higher Tonsillectomy Outcome Inventory-14 scores than those willing to be randomised implying that patients with a higher burden of tonsillitis symptoms may have declined entry into the trial. Design A multicentre, randomised controlled trial comparing the effectiveness of tonsillectomy for recurrent sore throat with that of non-surgical conservative management in a 1 : 1 ratio over a 24-month period. Surgeons, participants and site staff could not be blinded to the allocated procedure. The main trial began following the completion of a feasibility study and included a qualitative process evaluation, as well as an economic evaluation. The design, conduct and reporting of the trial were informed by patients. Crossover of participants between arms was permitted. Tonsil dissection: dissection of the palatine tonsils preferably within 6 weeks, and no more than 8 weeks, following randomisation (dissection method at the discretion of the participating centres). Conservative (non-surgical) management (i.e. deferred surgery): participants entering the conservative management arm were asked to defer surgery for up to 24 months on the understanding that they would be reviewed at 12 months. A total of 453 patients were recruited to the main trial from 27 NHS secondary care hospitals in Great Britain. Eligible patients were identified via general ENT referrals and established sore throat-specific referral pathways, some of which were run by ENT nurse practitioners. Primary outcome The primary outcome measure was the total number of sore throat days over the 24 months following randomisation. The number of sore throat days was collected by a database that was designed for use in the trial (the STAR database). This database allowed participants to respond weekly to alerts by providing the number of sore throats that they had experienced in the previous 7 days (between 0 and 7 sore throat days). From the beginning of the trial, participants were able to choose their preferred method for receiving these alerts: e-mail, text message or interactive voice response (IVR) via telephone. There was some evidence that those with the most severe extent of disease were reluctant to enter the study (around 5 points higher scores overall on the TOI-14). Some symptoms may not be a result of tonsillitis. Not all patients were offered, or chose, to watch the trial recruitment video. The ITT analysis is likely to offer a conservative underestimate of the true impact of tonsillectomy in reducing sore throat days, as a result of patients crossing over to receive tonsillectomy. A challenge of the economic evaluation was the progressive loss of data over the 24-month follow-up.
Project Status: Completed
URL for project: https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/programmes/hta/12/146/06
Year Published: 2023
URL for published report: https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/hta/YKUR3660
URL for additional information: English
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Full HTA
Country: England, United Kingdom
- Conservative Treatment
- Young Adult
- Cost-Benefit Analysis
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
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