The objective was to quantify the potential economic value of single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) with computed tomography (CT; SPECT/CT) versus CT pulmonary angiography (CTPA), ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) planar scintigraphy, and V/Q SPECT imaging modalities for diagnosing suspected pulmonary embolism (PE) patients in an emergency setting.
An Excel-based simulation model was developed to compare SPECT/CT versus the alternate scanning technologies from a payer's perspective. Clinical endpoints (diagnosis, treatment, complications, and mortality) and their corresponding cost data (2016 USD) were obtained by performing a best evidence review of the published literature. Studies were pooled and parameters were weighted by sample size. Outcomes measured included differences in 1) excess costs, 2) total costs, and 3) lives lost per annum between SPECT/CT and the other imaging modalities. One-way (±25%) sensitivity and three scenario analyses were performed to gauge the robustness of the results.
For every 1,000 suspected PE patients undergoing imaging, expected annual economic burden by modality was found to be 3.2 million (SPECT/CT), 3.8 million (CTPA), 5.8 million (planar), and 3.6 million (SPECT) USD, with a switch to SPECT/CT technology yielding per-patient-per-month cost savings of $51.80 (vs. CTPA), $213.80 (vs. planar), and $36.30 (vs. SPECT), respectively. The model calculated that the incremental number of lives saved with SPECT/CT was six (vs. CTPA) and three (vs. planar). Utilizing SPECT/CT as the initial imaging modality for workup of acute PE was also expected to save $994,777 (vs. CTPA), $2,852,014 (vs. planar), and $435,038 (vs. SPECT) in "potentially avoidable"' excess costs per annum for a payer or health plan.
Compared to the currently available scanning technologies for diagnosing suspected PE, SPECT/CT appears to confer superior economic value, primarily via improved sensitivity and specificity and low nondiagnostic rates. In turn, the improved diagnostic accuracy accords this modality the lowest ratio of expenses attributable to potentially avoidable complications, misdiagnosis, and underdiagnosis.