Background & aims: The high prevalence, morbidity, premature death, and benefit of early diagnosis and treatment make hemochromatosis a prime target for screening in the white population. Decision analysis techniques were used to compare the outcome, utility, and incremental cost savings of a plan to screen voluntary blood donors for hemochromatosis.
Methods: The screening strategy includes sequential testing of serum unsaturated iron-binding capacity, serum transferrin saturation, serum ferritin, and either hepatic iron index or venesections to measure exchangeable body iron. Estimates of prevalence, asymptomatic intervals, probabilities of life-threatening clinical complications, symptom-specific life expectancy, and sensitivity and specificity of screening tests are based on our database of 170 hemochromatosis homozygotes and the published literature.
Results: The screening strategy led to an incremental increase in utility of 0.84 quality-adjusted life days with an incremental cost savings of $3.19 per blood donor screened. When the potential of identifying asymptomatic homozygous siblings was included, these values increased to 1.18 quality-adjusted life days and $12.57 per person screened. Screening remained a dominant strategy given a prevalence of hemochromatosis of > 0.0026 or an initial screening test cost of < $8.
Conclusions: Screening blood donors for hemochromatosis has the potential to improve overall societal health status and decrease third-party payer health care costs over the long-term.