Implementation of positron-emission tomography (PET) is variable depending on jurisdiction in part due to uncertainty about cost-effectiveness. Our objective was to perform a systematic review describing cost-effectiveness of PET in staging of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and management of solitary pulmonary nodules (SPN). Systematic literature searches were conducted using separate search strategies for multiple databases. Our validity criteria included measurement of study quality by means of the validated Quality of Health Economic Studies (QHES) instrument. Metrics such as mean PET costs, median average cost savings per patient, incremental cost-effectiveness ratio based on life years saved and quality-adjusted life years were calculated. Eighteen studies met our inclusion criteria with average QHES scores > 75. Studies were primarily based on the national health insurance payer perspective from 10 different countries. Cost-effectiveness was assessed primarily using decision-tree modeling and sensitivity analysis to determine the effects of changing variables on expected cost and life expectancy. After adjusting for currency exchange rates and inflation to 2010 United States dollars, the mean cost of PET was $1478. The cost-effectiveness metrics used in these studies were variable depending on sensitivity and specificity of diagnostic tests used in the models, probability of malignancy, and baseline strategy. Despite observed study heterogeneity, the consensus of these studies conclude that the additional information gained from PET imaging in the staging of NSCLC and diagnosis of SPNs is worth the cost in context of proper medical indications.
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