Automated chest-radiography as a triage for Xpert testing in resource-constrained settings: a prospective study of diagnostic accuracy and costs

Sci Rep. 2015 Jul 27:5:12215. doi: 10.1038/srep12215.


Molecular tests hold great potential for tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis, but are costly, time consuming, and HIV-infected patients are often sputum scarce. Therefore, alternative approaches are needed. We evaluated automated digital chest radiography (ACR) as a rapid and cheap pre-screen test prior to Xpert MTB/RIF (Xpert). 388 suspected TB subjects underwent chest radiography, Xpert and sputum culture testing. Radiographs were analysed by computer software (CAD4TB) and specialist readers, and abnormality scores were allocated. A triage algorithm was simulated in which subjects with a score above a threshold underwent Xpert. We computed sensitivity, specificity, cost per screened subject (CSS), cost per notified TB case (CNTBC) and throughput for different diagnostic thresholds. 18.3% of subjects had culture positive TB. For Xpert alone, sensitivity was 78.9%, specificity 98.1%, CSS $13.09 and CNTBC $90.70. In a pre-screening setting where 40% of subjects would undergo Xpert, CSS decreased to $6.72 and CNTBC to $54.34, with eight TB cases missed and throughput increased from 45 to 113 patients/day. Specialists, on average, read 57% of radiographs as abnormal, reducing CSS ($8.95) and CNTBC ($64.84). ACR pre-screening could substantially reduce costs, and increase daily throughput with few TB cases missed. These data inform public health policy in resource-constrained settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Machine Learning / economics
  • Machine Learning / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / economics
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / economics*
  • Pattern Recognition, Automated / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radiography, Thoracic / economics*
  • Radiography, Thoracic / statistics & numerical data
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Resource Allocation / economics
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Triage / economics*
  • Triage / statistics & numerical data
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / economics*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology
  • Utilization Review