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Cost-effectiveness of head computed tomography in infants with possible inflicted traumatic brain injury.

Abstract

We conducted a literature review for estimates of inflicted traumatic brain injury incidence, outcome probabilities, and medical and societal costs. Wide ranges were set for sensitivity and Monte Carlo analyses.

From a medical payer perspective, our models demonstrate that CT for inflicted traumatic brain injury can be cost-effective and improve outcomes. The finding of higher societal cost reflects the substantial short-term costs of child protection. Our study supports a low medical threshold for CT screening and highlights the need for improved understanding of long-term costs and outcomes of child abuse.

Early diagnosis of inflicted traumatic brain injury may reduce morbidity and mortality associated with repeated inflicted traumatic brain injuries. We undertook this study to estimate the cost-effectiveness of a policy of head computed tomography (CT) for inflicted traumatic brain injury in selected infants seen in an emergency department.

From a medical payer perspective, head CT for inflicted traumatic brain injury in infants with unexplained scalp bruising saved money. Sensitivity analysis demonstrated costs less than $50,000 per severe or fatal inflicted traumatic brain injury averted in scenarios in which initial inflicted traumatic brain injury prevalence was >3%. From a societal perspective, costs of child protection made head CT for inflicted traumatic brain injury more expensive.

We constructed Markov models to compare a policy of CT to no CT in an asymptomatic 5-week-old infant with either (1) unexplained scalp bruising or (2) a history of an apparent life-threatening event. Health states modeled were no inflicted traumatic brain injury, misdiagnosed inflicted traumatic brain injury, mild inflicted traumatic brain injury (diagnosed or undiagnosed), and severe and fatal inflicted traumatic brain injury. Infants with undiagnosed inflicted traumatic brain injury were at increased risk of repeat inflicted traumatic brain injury. We used available literature to estimate probabilities, costs, and outcomes. The models terminated at death or at 52 weeks of age. Outcomes considered were severe and fatal inflicted traumatic brain injury cases averted through early detection of mild inflicted traumatic brain injury.

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