The aim of the project was to compare different screening rules and/or referral cut-offs for the identification of children with disorders of short stature. We undertook an update of a previous systematic review and economic model that addressed the same question.
Sources searched included MEDLINE, EMBASE, Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index, Conference Proceedings Citation Index - Science/Social Science & Humanities, Cochrane Library 2009 Issue 4, Office of Health Economics Health Economic Evaluations Database, and the NHS Economic Evaluation Database.
The review was conducted as an update to our previous assessment in 2007. Searching covered January 2005 to November 2009 with no language or publication restrictions. Two reviewers examined full papers for relevance. Data extraction was conducted by one reviewer and independently checked by a second. In addition, searches were conducted to identify quality of life or utility papers to inform the economic evaluation. We developed a probabilistic decision analytic model to estimate the costs and quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gains from the perspective of the UK NHS and personal social services. The model was a cohort model, assuming a homogeneous population of 5-year-olds at baseline.
One study was included in the systematic review. The study was not UK based, but had been identified in the brief as relevant to the UK setting. The study's authors examined the performance of a number of rules to determine sensitivity and specificity of referral for short stature in four patient groups and three reference groups in the Netherlands. They derived an algorithm for referral based on the optimal rules. No new studies were located that provided appropriate quality of life or utilities data for the economic model. The model was based on the previous assessment which was updated to better reflect current UK clinical practice. We compared two alternative monitoring strategies, one of which was based on the study identified in our systematic review (Grote strategy); the other was based on UK consensus (UK strategy). We identified that the UK strategy was the least effective and least costly, with a mean gain of 0.001 QALYs at a mean cost of £21. The Grote strategy was both more expensive and more effective, with a mean cost of £68 and a mean QALY gain of 0.042. The incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was £1144 per QALY gained.
This assessment contributes further knowledge, but does not provide definitive answers on how to deliver growth monitoring. In particular, we were unable to ascertain current practice in the UK for growth screening. Further, we were unable to evaluate through the use of identified studies and modelling an optimal referral cut-off and age at which to screen. We identified a number of research questions that would further inform referral strategies, which in summary would involve further primary and secondary data collection.
The National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.