Comparative Study
Journal Article
Randomized Controlled Trial
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Is ambulatory monitoring for "community-acquired" syncope economically attractive? A cost-effectiveness analysis of a randomized trial of external loop recorders versus Holter monitoring.

BACKGROUND: Out patient ambulatory monitoring is often performed in patients with syncope that present in the primary care setting to include or exclude an arrhythmia. The cost-effectiveness of 2 monitoring strategies was assessed in a prospective randomized trial.

METHODS: One hundred patients referred for ambulatory monitoring with syncope or presyncope were randomized to a 1-month external loop recorder (n = 49) or 48-hour Holter monitor (n = 51). Patients were offered crossover if there was failed activation or no symptom recurrence. The primary end point was symptom-rhythm correlation during monitoring. Direct costs were calculated based on the 2003 Ontario Health Insurance Plan fee schedule, combined with calculation of labor, materials, service, and overhead for diagnostic testing and related equipment.

RESULTS: Before enrollment, the cost of all previous health care resource use was USD 472 +/- USD 397 (range USD 21-USD 1965). In the loop recorder group, 63% of patients had symptom recurrence and successful activation, compared with 24% in the Holter group (P < .0001). The cost per Holter was USD 177.64, and per loop recorder, USD 533.56, with a similar cost per diagnosis with the 2 techniques. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of the loop recorder was USD 901.74 per extra successful diagnosis. A strategy of Holter followed by offered loop recorder trended toward lower cost than initial loop recorder followed by Holter (USD 481 +/- USD 267 vs USD 551 +/- USD 83, P = .08), but was associated with a lower overall diagnostic yield (49% vs 63%) and a resultant higher cost per diagnosis (USD 982 vs USD 871, P = .08). Bootstrapping suggested that 90% of incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were less than USD 1250.

CONCLUSION: Despite the increased upfront cost of external loop recorders, the marked improvement in diagnostic yield offsets the cost. External loop recorders are an economically attractive alternative. First-line use of external loop recorders in patients with "community-acquired" syncope and presyncope should be considered to optimize diagnostic yield given its value.

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