Jiang B, et al. BMC Pulm Med 2020.
BACKGROUND: Conventional CTCS images the mid/lower chest for coronary artery disease (CAD). Because many CAD patients are also at risk for lung malignancy, CTCS often discovers incidental pulmonary nodules (IPN). CTCS excludes the upper chest, where malignancy is common. Full-chest CTCS (FCT) may be a cost-effective screening tool for IPN.
METHODS: A decision tree was created to compare a FCT to CTCS in a hypothetical patient cohort with suspected CAD. (Figure) The design compares the effects of missed cancers on CTCS with the cost of working up non-malignant nodules on FCT. The model was informed by results of the National Lung Screening Trial and literature review, including the rate of malignancy among patients receiving CTCS and the rate of malignancy in upper vs lower portions of the lung. The analysis outcomes are Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) and incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER), which is generally considered beneficial when <$50,000/QALY.
RESULTS: Literature review suggests that rate of IPNs in the upper portion of the lung varied from 47 to 76%. Our model assumed that IPNs occur in upper and lower portions of the lung with equal frequency. The model also assumes an equal malignancy potential in upper lung IPNs despite data that malignancy occurs 61-66% in upper lung fields. In the base case analysis, a FCT will lead to an increase of 0.03 QALYs comparing to conventional CTCS (14.54 vs 14.51 QALY, respectively), which translates into an QALY increase of 16 days. The associated incremental cost for FCT is $278 ($1027 vs $748, FCT vs CTCS respectively. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) is $10,289/QALY, suggesting significant benefit. Sensitivity analysis shows this benefit increases proportional to the rate of malignancy in upper lung fields.
CONCLUSION: Conventional CTCS may be a missed opportunity to screen for upper lung field cancers in high risk patients. The ICER of FCT is better than screening for breast cancer screening (mammograms $80 k/QALY) and colon cancer (colonoscopy $6 k/QALY). Prospective studies are appropriate to define protocols for FCT.