Screening for thrombophilia in high-risk situations: systematic review and cost-effectiveness analysis. The Thrombosis: Risk and Economic Assessment of Thrombophilia Screening (TREATS) study

Health Technol Assess. 2006 Apr;10(11):1-110. doi: 10.3310/hta10110.


Objectives: To assess the risk of clinical complications associated with thrombophilia in three high-risk patient groups: women using oral oestrogen preparations, women during pregnancy and patients undergoing major orthopaedic surgery. To assess the effectiveness of prophylactic treatments in preventing venous thromboembolism (VTE) and adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with thrombophilia during pregnancy and VTE in patients with thrombophilia, undergoing major orthopaedic surgery. To evaluate the relative cost-effectiveness of universal and selective VTE history-based screening for thrombophilia compared with no screening in the three high-risk patient groups.

Data sources: Electronic databases including MEDLINE, EMBASE, and four other major databases were searched up to June 2003.

Review methods: In order to assess the risk of clinical complications associated with thrombophilia, a systematic review of the literature on VTE and thrombophilia in women using oral oestrogen preparations and patients undergoing major orthopaedic surgery; and studies of VTE and adverse obstetric complications in women with thrombophilia during pregnancy was carried out. Meta-analysis was used to calculate pooled odds ratios (ORs) associated with individual clinical outcomes, stratified by thrombophilia type and were calculated for each patient group. To assess the effectiveness of prophylaxis, a systematic review was carried out on the use of prophylaxis in the prevention of VTE and pregnancy loss in pregnant women with thrombophilic defects and the use of thromboprophylaxis in the prevention of VTE in patients with thrombophilia undergoing major elective orthopaedic surgery. Relevant data were summarised according to the patient groups and stratified according to the types of prophylaxis. A narrative summary was provided; where appropriate, meta-analysis was conducted. An incremental cost-effectiveness analysis was then carried out, from the perspective of the NHS in the UK. A decision analytical model was developed to simulate the clinical consequences of four thrombophilia screening scenarios. Results from the meta-analyses, information from the literature and results of two Delphi studies of clinical management of VTE and adverse pregnancy complications were incorporated into the model. Only direct health service costs were measured and unit costs for all healthcare resources used were obtained from routinely collected data and the literature. Cost-effectiveness was expressed as incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs); an estimate of the cost per adverse clinical complication prevented, comparing screening with no screening, were calculated for each patient group.

Results: In the review of risk of clinical complications, 81 studies were included, nine for oral oestrogen preparations, 72 for pregnancy and eight for orthopaedic surgery. For oral contraceptive use, significant associations of the risk of VTE were found in women with factor V Leiden (FVL); deficiencies of antithrombin, protein C, or protein S, elevated levels of factor VIIIc; and FVL and prothrombin G20210A. For hormone replacement therapy (HRT), a significant association was found in women with FVL. The highest risk in pregnancy was found for FVL and VTE, in particular, homozygous carriers of this mutation are 34 times more likely to develop VTE in pregnancy than non-carriers. Significant risks for individual thrombophilic defects were also established for early, recurrent and late pregnancy loss; preeclampsia; placental abruption; and intrauterine growth restriction. Significant associations were found between FVL and high factor VIIIc and postoperative VTE following elective hip or knee replacement surgery. Prothrombin G20210A was significantly associated with postoperative pulmonary embolism. However, antithrombin deficiency, MTHFR and hyperhomocysteinaemia were not associated with increased risk of postoperative VTE. In the review of the effectiveness of prophylaxis, based on available data from eight studies, low-dose aspirin and heparin was found to be the most effective in preventing pregnancy loss in thrombophilic women during pregnancy, while aspirin alone was the most effective in preventing minor bleeding. All the studies on thrombophilia and major elective orthopaedic surgery included in the review of risk complications were also used in the review of the effectiveness of thromboprophylaxis. However, there were insufficient data to determine the relative effectiveness of different thromboprophylaxis in preventing VTE in this patient group. For the cost-effectiveness analysis, of all the patient groups evaluated, universal screening of women prior to prescribing HRT was the most cost-effective (ICER pound6824). In contrast, universal screening of women prior to prescribing combined oral contraceptives was the least cost-effective strategy (ICER pound202,402). Selective thrombophilia screening based on previous personal and/or family history of VTE was more cost-effective than universal screening in all the patient groups evaluated.

Conclusions: Thrombophilia is associated with increased risks of VTE in women taking oral oestrogen preparations and patients undergoing major elective orthopaedic surgery, and of VTE and adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with thrombophilia during pregnancy. There is considerable difference in the magnitude of the risks among different patient groups with different thrombophilic defects. In women who are on combined oral contraceptives, the OR of VTE among those who are carriers of the FVL mutation was 15.62 (95% confidence interval 8.66 to 28.15). However, in view of the prevalence of thrombophilia and the low prevalence of VTE in non-users of combined oral contraceptives, the absolute risk remains low. Significant risks for VTE and adverse pregnancy outcomes have been established with individual thrombophilic defects. Thrombophilic defects including FVL, high plasma factor VIIIc levels and prothrombin G20210A are associated with the occurrence of postoperative VTE in elective hip or knee replacement therapy. These associations are observed in patients who were given preoperative thromboprophylaxis and are, therefore, of clinical significance. Universal thrombophilia screening in women prior to prescribing oral oestrogen preparations, in women during pregnancy and in patients undergoing major orthopaedic surgery is not supported by current evidence. The findings from this study show that selective screening based on prior VTE history is more cost-effective than universal screening. Large prospective studies should be undertaken to refine the risks and establish the associations of thrombophilias with VTE among hormone users and in patients undergoing orthopaedic surgery. The relative value of a thrombophilia screening programme to other healthcare programmes needs to be established.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / economics*
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Odds Ratio
  • Risk Assessment
  • State Medicine
  • Thrombophilia / complications
  • Thrombophilia / diagnosis*
  • Thrombophilia / prevention & control
  • United Kingdom