1Division of Gastroenterology/Hepatology, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
2Departments of Radiology and Epidemiology, Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
3Center for Health Decision Sciences, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
The risk of advanced fibrosis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is traditionally assessed with a liver biopsy, which is both costly and associated with adverse events.
We sought to compare the cost-effectiveness of four different strategies to assess fibrosis risk in patients with NAFLD: vibration controlled transient elastography (VCTE), the NAFLD fibrosis score (NFS), combination testing with NFS and VCTE, and liver biopsy (usual care). We developed a probabilistic decision analytical microsimulation state-transition model wherein we simulated a cohort of 10,000 50-year-old Americans with NAFLD undergoing evaluation by a gastroenterologist. VCTE performance was obtained from a prospective cohort of 144 patients with NAFLD.
Both the NFS alone and the NFS/VCTE strategies were cost effective at $5,795 and $5,768 per quality-adjusted life years (QALY), respectively. In the microsimulation, the NFS alone and NFS/VCTE strategies were the most cost-effective (dominant) in 66.8 and 33.2% of samples given a willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000 per QALY. In a sensitivity analysis, the minimum cost per liver biopsy at which the NFS is cost saving is $339 and the maximum cost per VCTE exam at which the NFS/VCTE strategy remains cost saving is $1,593. The expected value of further research on this topic is $526 million.
Non-invasive risk stratification with both the NFS alone and the NFS/VCTE are cost-effective strategies for the evaluation and management of patients with NAFLD presenting to a gastroenterologist. Further research is needed to better define the natural history of NAFLD and the effect of novel treatments on decision making.