Screening for blunt cerebrovascular injuries is cost-effective

J Trauma. 2011 May;70(5):1051-6; discussion 1056-7. doi: 10.1097/TA.0b013e318211857d.


Background: Screening for blunt carotid and vertebral injury (BCVI) is increasing without a clear understanding of whether the chosen screening approach is cost-effective. We hypothesized that screening for BCVI using computed tomography angiography (CTA) was cost-effective in populations at high risk for BCVI.

Methods: A decision analysis was performed modeling current BCVI screening approaches: no screening, duplex ultrasound, magnetic resonance angiography, angiography, and CTA. Treatment options included antiplatelet therapy, anticoagulation, stents for pseudoaneurysm, and no treatment. Probability estimates for incidence of injury and stroke, sensitivity and specificity of the screening modality, and type of treatment were taken from published data. Average wholesale price and medicare reimbursement costs were used. Two populations were analyzed; high-risk and overall blunt trauma populations. Two perspectives were taken; societal (including lifetime stroke costs) and institutional (ignoring lifetime stroke costs).

Results: In the high-risk population, from a societal perspective, CTA has the lowest cost and stroke rate; $3,727 per patient screened with a 1% stroke rate. No treatment has the highest cost and stroke rate. From an institutional perspective, no screening is the least costly option but has an 11% stroke rate. Duplex ultrasound is the most cost-effective screening modality; $8,940 per stroke prevented.

Conclusion: From the societal perspective, CTA is the most cost-effective screening strategy for patients at high risk for BCVI. From an institutional perspective, CTA prevents the most strokes at a reasonable cost.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebral Angiography / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Head Injuries, Closed / complications
  • Head Injuries, Closed / diagnosis
  • Head Injuries, Closed / economics*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography / economics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Economic*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stroke / diagnosis
  • Stroke / economics
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / economics*
  • United States