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Am Heart J. 2002 Sep;144(3):440-8.

Effect of risk stratification on cost-effectiveness of the implantable cardioverter defibrillator.

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VA Health Care System, Palo Alto, Calif 94304, USA.



Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) effectively prevent sudden cardiac death, but selection of appropriate patients for implantation is complex. We evaluated whether risk stratification based on risk of sudden cardiac death alone was sufficient to predict the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the ICD.


We developed a Markov model to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of ICD implantation compared with empiric amiodarone treatment. The model incorporated mortality rates from sudden and nonsudden cardiac death, noncardiac death and costs for each treatment strategy. We based our model inputs on data from randomized clinical trials, registries, and meta-analyses. We assumed that the ICD reduced total mortality rates by 25%, relative to use of amiodarone.


The relationship between cost-effectiveness of the ICD and the total annual cardiac mortality rate is U-shaped; cost-effectiveness becomes unfavorable at both low and high total cardiac mortality rates. If the annual total cardiac mortality rate is 12%, the cost-effectiveness of the ICD varies from $36,000 per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained when the ratio of sudden cardiac death to nonsudden cardiac death is 4 to $116,000 per QALY gained when the ratio is 0.25.


The cost-effectiveness of ICD use relative to amiodarone depends on total cardiac mortality rates as well as the ratio of sudden to nonsudden cardiac death. Studies of candidate diagnostic tests for risk stratification should distinguish patients who die suddenly from those who die nonsuddenly, not just patients who die suddenly from those who live.

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