Imaging of carotid arteries in symptomatic patients: cost-effectiveness of diagnostic strategies

Radiology. 2004 Oct;233(1):101-12. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2331030863. Epub 2004 Aug 27.


Purpose: To assess the cost-effectiveness of noninvasive imaging strategies in patients who have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor stroke and are suspected of having significant carotid artery stenosis.

Materials and methods: From 1997 through 2000, 350 patients were included in a multicenter blinded consecutive cohort study. The sensitivities and specificities of duplex ultrasonography (US), magnetic resonance (MR) angiography, and these two examinations combined were estimated by using digital subtraction angiography (DSA) as the reference standard. The actual costs (from a societal perspective) of performing imaging and endarterectomy were estimated. The survival, quality of life, and costs associated with stroke were based on data reported in the literature. Markov modeling was used to predict long-term outcomes. Subsequently, a decision model was used to calculate costs, quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and incremental costs per QALY gained for 62 examination-treatment strategies. Extensive sensitivity analyses were performed.

Results: Duplex US had 88% sensitivity and 76% specificity with use of conventional cutoff criteria. MR angiography had comparable values: 92% sensitivity and 76% specificity. Combined concordant duplex US and MR angiography had superior diagnostic performance: 96% sensitivity and 80% specificity. Duplex US alone was the most efficient strategy. Adding MR angiography led to a marginal increase in QALYs gained but at prohibitive costs (cost-effectiveness ratio > 1 500 000 per QALY gained). Performing DSA owing to discordant duplex US and MR angiographic findings and to confirm duplex US and MR angiographic findings led to extra costs and QALY loss owing to complications. Sensitivity analyses revealed that duplex US as a stand-alone examination remained the preferred strategy while estimates and assumptions were varied across plausible ranges.

Conclusion: Duplex US performed without additional imaging is cost-effective in the selection of symptomatic patients suitable for endarterectomy. Adding MR angiography increases effectiveness slightly at disproportionately high costs, whereas DSA is inferior because of associated complications.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction / economics
  • Carotid Stenosis / diagnosis*
  • Carotid Stenosis / economics
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Diagnostic Imaging / economics*
  • Endarterectomy, Carotid / economics
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / complications
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / economics
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography / economics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Quality of Life
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / economics
  • Survival Rate
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex / economics
  • Value of Life