Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of tests for the diagnosis and investigation of urinary tract infection in children: a systematic review and economic model

Authors: Whiting P, Westwood M, Bojke L, Palmer S, Richardson G, Cooper J, Watt I, Glanville J, Sculpher M, Kleijnen J

Journal: Health Technology Assessment Volume: 10 Issue: 36

Publication date: October 2006



Whiting P, Westwood M, Bojke L, Palmer S, Richardson G, Cooper J, et al.Clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of tests for the diagnosis and investigation of urinary tract infection in children: a systematic review and economic model. Health Technol Assess 2006;10(36)

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To determine the diagnostic accuracy of tests for detecting urinary tract infection (UTI) in children under 5 years of age and to evaluate the effectiveness of tests used to investigate further children with confirmed UTI. Also, to evaluate the effectiveness of following up children with UTI and the cost-effectiveness of diagnostic and imaging tests for the diagnosis and follow-up of UTI in children under 5. An additional objective was to develop a preliminary diagnostic algorithm for healthcare professionals.

Data sources

Electronic databases were searched up to the end of 2002/early 2003. Consultation with experts in the field.

Review methods

A systematic review was undertaken using published guidelines and results were analysed according to test grouping: diagnosis of UTI and further investigation of UTI. The cost-effectiveness results from existing evaluations were synthesised. A separate cost-effectiveness model was developed using the best available evidence, in part derived from the results of the systematic review, to illustrate the potential cost-effectiveness of some alternative management strategies in a UK setting. The results of the systematic review were used to propose diagnostic algorithms for the diagnosis and further investigation of UTI in children. Economic analyses did not contribute directly to the development of these algorithms.


The studies included in the review provided very little data on the accuracy of clinical investigations for the diagnosis of UTI, and criteria for clinical suspicion of UTI were not further defined. The majority of studies included in the review found that clean voided midstream urine (CVU) samples had similar accuracy to suprapubic aspiration (SPA) samples when cultured with the advantage of being a non-invasive collection method that can be used in the GP's surgery. Pad, nappy or bag specimens may be appropriate methods for obtaining a urine sample in non-toilet-trained children, although only limited data were available. Although the glucose test was reported to have the highest accuracy in terms of both ruling in and ruling out disease, only a limited number of studies of this test were included and these were conducted over 30 years ago. Dipstick tests are easy to perform in the GP's surgery, give an immediate result and are relatively cheap. The results of the systematic review showed that a dipstick for leucocyte esterase (LE) and nitrite, where both test results are interpreted in combination, was a good test both for ruling in (both positive) and ruling out (both negative) a UTI. A dipstick positive for either LE or nitrite and negative for the other provides inconclusive diagnostic information and further testing is therefore required in these patients. Microscopy is more time consuming and expensive to perform than a dipstick test, but potentially quicker and cheaper than culture. As with dipstick tests, a combination of microscopy for pyuria and bacteriuria can be used accurately to rule in and rule out a UTI. An indeterminate test result is again obtained if microscopy is positive for either pyuria or bacteriuria, and negative for the other. Confirmatory culture is required in these patients. In patients considered to have a UTI, further culture to determine antibiotic sensitivities may be an option to inform treatment decisions. Only one study satisfied the inclusion criteria of the economic review and the review highlighted a number of potential limitations of this study for NHS decision-making. A separate decision-analytic model was therefore developed to provide a more reliable estimate of the optimal strategy regarding the diagnosis and further investigation of children under 5 with suspected UTI from the perspective of the NHS. The economic model found that the optimal diagnostic strategy for children presenting with symptoms suggestive of UTI depends on a number of key factors. These included the relevant subgroup of children concerned, in terms of gender and age, and the health service's maximum willingness to pay for an additional quality-adjusted life-year.


The results of the systematic review were used to derive an algorithm for the diagnosis of UTI in children under 5. This algorithm represents the conclusions of the review in terms of effective practice. There were insufficient data to propose an algorithm for the further investigation of UTI in children under 5. The quality assessment highlighted several areas that could be improved upon in future diagnostic accuracy studies.

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