Background: The role of endoscopic biopsies in the detection of Helicobacter pylori in patients with nonulcer dyspepsia is poorly defined. This study assesses the cost-effectiveness of performing routine biopsies for the detection of H pylori at upper endoscopy in these patients.
Methods: Clinical decision-making was modeled based on outcomes data from published articles and expert opinion. The target group was adults, less than 45 years of age, with nonulcer dyspepsia as defined by a normal endoscopy. Costs, expressed in Canadian dollars, were tabulated over a 1-year time horizon. The main outcome was relief of symptoms, defined as the absence of symptom persistence or recurrence over the 12 months. A strategy of performing a biopsy for the detection of H pylori with a rapid urease test during gastroscopy was compared with that of not performing a biopsy. In addition, as a secondary analysis, the cost-effectiveness of obtaining a biopsy specimen for histopathologic evaluation in patients after a negative rapid urease test was evaluated.
Results: A strategy of endoscopy with biopsy and rapid urease testing costs 3940 dollars per additional symptom-free patient as compared with endoscopy without biopsy. This result was sensitive to the difference in symptomatic recurrence rate at 1 year between patients in whom H pylori was successfully and unsuccessfully eradicated, which in this analysis, was set at 9.9%. Only when the difference in symptomatic recurrence in patients with successful versus unsuccessful eradication fell to less than 4% was endoscopy with biopsy over 10,000 dollars per cured patient greater than endoscopy without biopsy. The conclusions were otherwise robust when varying the values of other variables across clinically relevant ranges. There was little additional benefit associated with histopathologic assessment of biopsy specimens in patients with a negative rapid urease test and the cost per additional cure was 25,529 dollars.
Conclusions: In adults with nonulcer dyspepsia under age 45 years undergoing endoscopy, routine procurement of a biopsy specimen for detection of H pylori was more costly yet more effective compared with not obtaining a specimen. The cost-effectiveness of a biopsy is dependent on the benefits of H pylori eradication in this patient population. The less likely a patient with nonulcer dyspepsia is to become asymptomatic after successful H pylori eradication, the more costly a strategy of routinely obtaining a specimen at endoscopy. The additional cost of sending a specimen for histopathologic analysis if the rapid urease test is negative does not appear warranted based on cost-effectiveness considerations.