Pulse oximetry as a screening test for congenital heart defects in newborn infants: a cost-effectiveness analysis

T E Roberts, P M Barton, P E Auguste, L J Middleton, A T Furmston, A K Ewer
Archives of Disease in Childhood 2012, 97 (3): 221-6

OBJECTIVE: To undertake a cost-effectiveness analysis that compares pulse oximetry as an adjunct to clinical examination with clinical examination alone in newborn screening for congenital heart defects (CHDs).

DESIGN: Model-based economic evaluation using accuracy and cost data from a primary study supplemented from published sources taking an NHS perspective.

SETTING: Six large maternity units in the UK.

PATIENTS: 20 055 newborn infants prior to discharge from hospital.

INTERVENTION: Pulse oximetry as an adjunct to clinical examination.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Cost effectiveness based on incremental cost per timely diagnosis.

RESULTS: Pulse oximetry as an adjunct to clinical examination is twice as costly but provides a timely diagnosis to almost 30 additional cases of CHD per 100 000 live births compared with a modelled strategy of clinical examination alone. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio for this strategy compared with clinical examination alone is approximately £24 000 per case of timely diagnosis in a population in which antenatal screening for CHDs already exists. The probabilistic sensitivity analysis suggests that at a willingness-to-pay (WTP) threshold of £100 000, the probability of 'pulse oximetry as an adjunct to clinical examination' being cost effective is more than 90%. Such a WTP threshold is plausible if a newborn with timely diagnosis of a CHD gained just five quality-adjusted life years, even when treatment costs are taken into consideration.

CONCLUSION: Pulse oximetry as an adjunct to current routine practice of clinical examination alone is likely to be considered a cost-effective strategy in the light of currently accepted thresholds.

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