Cost-effectiveness of integrating a clinical decision rule and staged imaging protocol for diagnosis of appendicitis

Sean Gregory, Karen M Kuntz, François Sainfort, Anupam Kharbanda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Objective To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of a diagnostic protocol for appendicitis in children, the use of a validated clinical decision rule (CDR) and a staged imaging protocol, compared with usual care. Methods We estimated the cost-effectiveness of the three competing strategies using parameters from existing literature as well as a Markov model developed to simulate the effects of exposure to ionizing radiation from a single computed tomography (CT) study in the course of diagnosis. The simulation model was applied to a hypothetical cohort of 100,000 boys and girls, age 10 years, presenting with acute abdominal pain to emergency departments in the United States. Results The integrated strategy, the CDR followed by staged imaging, was found to be the most cost-effective approach. Cost savings accrued from the reduction in CT utilization for low-risk patients compared with the other two strategies. The addition of ultrasound (US) to the CDR strategy reduced CT utilization by an additional 10.9%, its main cost advantage, with negligible change in net health benefits from false-negative US results, and associated morbidity or mortality. Conclusions Results suggest that the integration of staged imaging with the CDR for the diagnosis of appendicitis in children is a cost-effective and cost-saving approach. The model estimates a further 10.9% reduction in the number of CTs from the incorporation of US for patients scoring high or medium risk, in excess of the 19.5% reduction estimated in the CDR validation study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-35
Number of pages8
JournalValue in Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ISPOR).


  • appendicitis
  • computed tomography
  • cost-effectiveness
  • decision rule
  • diagnosis


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