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Whole-body CT screening costs overshadow benefits

OAK BROOK, Ill. Whole-body computed tomography (CT) is not a cost-effective screening method, according to a study published in the February issue of the journal Radiology.

The use of whole-body CT as a screening tool for cancer and other diseases is the focus of an ongoing debate. Proponents of whole-body CT emphasize the potential benefit of early detection of disease, but others caution that the costs, false-positive findings and unnecessary radiation might render the procedure more harmful than beneficial.

"Our findings show that the average person should think twice before having a whole-body CT examination," said study author, G. Scott Gazelle, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Technology Assessment and associate professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "When money is wasted on ineffective interventions, it drives up the cost and decreases the availability of other necessary healthcare interventions," he said.

The researchers evaluated the cost-effectiveness of a single whole-body CT screening examination, which they believe to be the most representative use of whole-body CT. They estimated the cost to be $900 in 2001 dollars, based on advertised prices at the time.

By using software to create an analytic model, the team calculated the monetary costs versus any increase in life expectancy that resulted from CT screening in a hypothetical, self-referred cohort of 500,000 asymptomatic 50-year-old males. They evaluated eight conditions and anatomic regions commonly associated with whole-body CT screening. Disease rates were based on 19731996 data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program.

The findings indicate that whole-body CT screening exams provide only minimal gains in life expectancy (approximately six days) at an average cost of $2,513 per patient, or an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $151,000 per life-year gained (r
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Contact: Maureen Morley
mmorley@rsna.org
630-590-7762
Radiological Society of North America
25-Jan-2005


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