Cost-effectiveness of physiotherapy in childhood functional constipation: a randomized controlled trial in primary care

Jojanneke J. G. T. van Summeren, Gea A. Holtman, Yvonne Lisman-van Leeuwen, Alice H. C. van Ulsen-Rust, Karin M. Vermeulen, Merit M. Tabbers, Boudewijn J. Kollen, Janny H. Dekker, Marjolein Y. Berger

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OBJECTIVE: Health care expenditures for children with functional constipation (FC) are high, while conservative management is successful in only 50% of the children. The aim is to evaluate whether adding physiotherapy to conventional treatment (CT) is a cost-effective strategy in the management of children with FC aged 4-18 years in primary care. METHODS: A cost-effectiveness analysis was performed alongside a randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 8-month follow-up. Costs were assessed from a societal perspective, effectiveness included both the primary outcome (treatment success defined as the absence of FC and no laxative use) and the secondary outcome (absence of FC irrespective of laxative use). Uncertainty was assessed by bootstrapping and cost-effectiveness acceptability curves (CEACs) were displayed. RESULTS: One hundred and thirty-four children were randomized. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) for one additional successfully treated child in the physiotherapy group compared with the CT group was €24,060 (95% confidence interval [CI] €-16,275 to €31,390) and for the secondary outcome €1,221 (95% CI €-12,905 to €10,956). Subgroup analyses showed that for children with chronic laxative use the ICER was €2,134 (95% CI -24,975 to 17,192) and €571 (95% CI 11 to 3,566), respectively. At a value of €1,000, the CEAC showed a probability of 0.53 of cost-effectiveness for the primary outcome, and 0.90 for the secondary outcome. CONCLUSIONS: Physiotherapy added to CT as first-line treatment for all children with FC is not cost-effective compared with CT alone. Future studies should consider the cost-effectiveness of physiotherapy added to CT in children with chronic laxative use. TRIAL REGISTRATION: The RCT is registered in the Netherlands Trial Register (NTR4797), on the 8th of September 2014. The first child was enrolled on the 2nd of December 2014.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)662-668
Number of pages7
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022


  • child
  • constipation
  • cost-effectiveness
  • physical therapy
  • primary care
  • randomized controlled trial

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