Hepatitis C screening strategies in hemodialysis patients

Am J Kidney Dis. 2001 Jul;38(1):91-7. doi: 10.1053/ajkd.2001.25199.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is common in patients undergoing chronic hemodialysis, with an estimated yearly incidence of 0.2% and prevalence between 8% and 10%. Although a screening strategy based on alanine aminotransferase (ALT) values is currently recommended, this strategy has not been evaluated for cost-effectiveness compared with other potential screening strategies. A comparison therefore was made using a decision-analysis model of a simulated cohort of 5,000 hemodialysis patients followed up for 5 years. Using direct medical costs, three strategies were evaluated, including: (1) ALT values with confirmatory testing (biochemical), (2) serial enzyme-linked immunosorbent and strip immunoblot assay testing (serological), and (3) polymerase chain reaction (viral). Under baseline assumptions, the per-patient cost of screening hemodialysis patients for HCV was $378 for biochemical-based testing, $195 for serological-based testing, and $696 for viral-based testing. Our model was robust when varying the costs of testing, as well as the incidence and prevalence of HCV infection. Results of sensitivity analysis by varying costs, HCV incidence, and HCV prevalence indicated that serological-based screening was less costly than biochemical testing. Biochemical testing was in turn less costly than viral-based screening. Serological-based testing was also more effective in the diagnosis of de novo HCV infection, with a likelihood ratio of 85, in contrast to the likelihood ratio of 44 with biochemical-based testing using viral-based screening as the gold standard. A serological-based screening strategy is less costly and more effective than biochemical-based screening in the diagnosis of de novo HCV infection. Serological-based screening should be considered for HCV screening in hemodialysis populations.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / economics
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepacivirus / immunology
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Hepatitis C / diagnosis*
  • Hepatitis C / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunoblotting / economics
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / complications
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • RNA, Viral / blood
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • RNA, Viral
  • Alanine Transaminase