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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Nov;96(11):E1719-26. doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-0459. Epub 2011 Aug 24.

Cost-effectiveness of a novel molecular test for cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodules.

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  • 1Division of Health Sciences Informatics, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.



Determining which patients with thyroid nodules require surgery is limited by cytologically indeterminate findings. A new approach for preoperative molecular classification of cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodules has a reported sensitivity of 91% and specificity of 75%; however, its cost-effectiveness has yet to be assessed.


Our objective was to evaluate the 5-yr cost-effectiveness of routine use of a molecular test in adult patients with indeterminate fine-needle aspiration biopsy results from a societal perspective.


A 16-state Markov decision model was developed. Probabilities, costs, and quality-adjusted life years (QALY) were estimated from literature review, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data, Medicare reimbursement schedules, and expert opinion.


Decision analysis of a hypothetical group of adult patients with cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodules was conducted.


Incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was calculated as incremental cost (measured in U.S. dollars) divided by incremental effectiveness (measured in QALY).


Modifying current practice with use of the molecular test resulted in 74% fewer surgeries for benign nodules with no greater number of untreated cancers. Over 5 yr, mean discounted cost estimates were $12,172 for current practice and $10,719 with the molecular test. Current practice and molecular test use produced 4.50 and 4.57 QALY, respectively.


Use of this novel molecular test for differential diagnosis of cytologically indeterminate thyroid nodules can potentially avoid almost three fourths of currently performed surgeries in patients with benign nodules. Compared with current practice based on cytological findings alone, use of this test may result in lower overall costs and modestly improved quality of life for patients with indeterminate thyroid nodules.

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