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Cost-effectiveness of initial diagnostic strategies for pulmonary nodules presenting to thoracic surgeons.

Deppen SA, Davis WT, Green EA, Rickman O, Aldrich MC, Fletcher S, Putnam JB, Grogan EL. Cost-effectiveness of initial diagnostic strategies for pulmonary nodules presenting to thoracic surgeons. The Annals of thoracic surgery. 2014 Oct 1; 98(4):1214-22.

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BACKGROUND: Patients presenting to thoracic surgeons with pulmonary nodules suggestive of lung cancer have varied diagnostic options including navigation bronchoscopy (NB), computed tomography-guided fine-needle aspiration (CT-FNA), (18)F-fluoro-deoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). We studied the relative cost-effective initial diagnostic strategy for a 1.5- to 2-cm nodule suggestive of cancer. METHODS: A decision analysis model was developed to assess the costs and outcomes of four initial diagnostic strategies for diagnosis of a 1.5- to 2-cm nodule with either a 50% or 65% pretest probability of cancer. Medicare reimbursement rates were used for costs. Quality-adjusted life years were estimated using patient survival based on pathologic staging and utilities derived from the literature. RESULTS: When cancer prevalence was 65%, tissue acquisition strategies of NB and CT-FNA had higher quality-adjusted life years compared with either FDG-PET or VATS, and VATS was the most costly strategy. In sensitivity analyses, NB and CT-FNA were more cost-effective than FDG-PET when FDG-PET specificity was less than 72%. When cancer prevalence was 50%, NB, CT-FNA, and FDG-PET had similar cost-effectiveness. CONCLUSIONS: Both NB and CT-FNA diagnostic strategies are more cost-effective than either VATS biopsy or FDG-PET scan to diagnose lung cancer in moderate- to high-risk nodules and resulted in fewer nontherapeutic operations when FDG-PET specificity was less than 72%. An FDG-PET scan for diagnosis of lung cancer may not be cost-effective in regions of the country where specificity is low.

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