Cost-effectiveness of MR imaging and core-needle biopsy in the preoperative work-up of suspicious breast lesions

Radiology. 1999 Oct;213(1):39-49. doi: 10.1148/radiology.213.1.r99oc5139.


Purpose: To assess the clinical and economic consequences of the use of preoperative breast magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and core-needle biopsy (CNB) to avert excisional biopsy (EXB).

Materials and methods: A decision-analytic Markov model was constructed to compare MR imaging, CNB, and EXB without preoperative testing in a woman with a suspicious breast lesion. Stage-specific cancer prevalence, tumor recurrence, progression rates, and MR imaging and CNB sensitivity and specificity were obtained from the literature. Cost estimates were obtained from the literature and from the Medicare fee schedule.

Results: EXB without preoperative testing was associated with the greatest quality-adjusted life expectancy, followed by MR imaging and CNB; life expectancies were 17.409, 17.405, and 17.398 years, respectively. EXB resulted in the greatest lifetime treatment cost ($31,438), followed by MR imaging ($29,072) and CNB ($28,573). Results were robust over a wide range of cancer prevalence, stage distribution, tumor progression rates, and procedure and treatment costs. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios showed that preoperative testing was cost-effective, but the choice between MR imaging and CNB was highly dependent on the accuracy of each test and to patient preferences.

Conclusion: Preoperative testing of most suspicious breast lesions was cost-effective. More precise estimates of MR imaging and CNB test performance characteristics are needed. Until those are available, patient preferences should inform individual decisions regarding preoperative testing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy, Needle / economics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / economics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / economics*
  • Markov Chains
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Sensitivity and Specificity