Cost Effectiveness of CEUS
Health care costs may be reduced by the use ultrasound contrast agents (UCAs), also known as enhancement agents, to improve the clarity and reliability of ultrasound scans. In addition, UCAs may improve patient outcomes and speed up the time to diagnosis by avoiding delays associated with other forms of imaging, such as CT or MR.
One recent study showed that the use of UCAs resulted in an overall cost savings of $122/patient and avoided additional redundant downstream tests in 32.8% of patients. The study also found that UCAs resulted in a change in management of 10.4% of patients studied, with a total impact in 35.6% of patients. The most significant benefits of UCAs were found in the sickest patients – i.e., those in intensive care units. The study prospectively evaluated 632 patients with technically difficult echocardiograms.
Another recent study found that UCAs could help avoid CT or MR imaging in many patients with liver or kidney masses, resulting in an annual cost savings of $117,000 for a single medical center. The study noted that when liver and kidney masses are first examined with conventional ultrasound, without UCA enhancement, additional CT or MR procedures are often needed to characterize the tumor — delaying time to imaging diagnosis and increasing overall health care expenditures. However, when UCAs are used during the initial ultrasound scan, liver and kidney lesions may be immediately evaluated in many patients without waiting for and incurring costs associated with further CT or MR procedures. The study found that, in outpatient exams, the mean time to completion of imaging was:
- 5.2 days for CEUS,
- 52.3 days for CT, and
- 123.5 days for MR.
Further, the majority (78.4%) of CEUS examinations were completed the same day as the initial examination, and 66.7% of CEUS examinations did not require further workup with CT or MR. The authors concluded that CEUS is “a comparatively low-cost diagnostic tool that is underutilized” in imaging liver and kidney masses.