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    Study: CT urogram leads to costly follow-up imaging

    Research needed on whether ultrasound could be less expensive alternative

    Birmingham, AL—Findings from an initial cost analysis support further research and reconsideration of the role of computed tomography urography (CTU) for imaging evaluation in patients with asymptomatic microhematuria (AMH), according to urologists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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    The study, which was presented at the AUA annual meeting in San Diego and subsequently published in Urology (2016; 95:34-8), focused on determining costs stemming from the evaluation of incidental extra-urinary findings. It included data for 202 patients who underwent CTU for AMH from 2012 to 2014. A genitourinary malignancy—renal cell carcinoma—was identified on CTU in only two patients (0.99%), whereas 150 patients (74.3%) had an incidental extra-urinary finding and 36 of those patients underwent further evaluation.

    Considering costs for follow-up imaging, specialist referral, and additional procedures, the total cost for further follow-up was $140,290 or $694.50 per patient screened. The additional workup identified only one extra-urinary malignancy, a T3N1aM0 colonic adenocarcinoma.

    “The AUA guideline on AMH states that multi-phasic CTU is the imaging procedure of choice for the initial evaluation because it has the highest sensitivity and specificity for imaging the upper tracts. The actual incidence of a urologic cancer found on CTU performed for AMH is quite low, however, whereas multiple non-genitourinary findings are detected incidentally due to the wide area of coverage,” said first author Win Shun Lai, MD, a urology resident who worked on the study with Mark E. Lockhart, MD, MPH, and colleagues.

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    “Our study shows how CTU for AMH can lead to expensive and invasive evaluations for suspicious lesions, the results of which are usually negative. Therefore, we believe future studies are warranted to investigate whether the costs are worth the benefits and if ultrasound can be recommended as an alternative to CTU that will limit the cost and invasiveness of evaluation for AMH,” added Dr. Lai.

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    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga is a medical writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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