Background: Pulmonary embolism (PE) remains a leading cause of maternal mortality, yet diagnosis remains challenging. International diagnostic guidelines vary significantly in their recommendations, making it difficult to determine an optimal policy for evaluation. Research Question: Which societal-level diagnostic guidelines for evaluation of suspected PE in pregnancy are an optimal policy in terms of its cost-effectiveness? Study Design and Methods: We constructed a complex Markov decision model to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of each identified societal guidelines for diagnosis of PE in pregnancy. Our model accounted for risk stratification, empiric treatment, diagnostic testing strategies, as well as short- and long-term effects from PE, treatment with low-molecular-weight heparin, and radiation exposure from advanced imaging. We considered clinical and cost outcomes of each guideline from a US health care system perspective with a lifetime horizon. Clinical effectiveness and costs were measured in time-discounted quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and US dollars, respectively. Strategies were compared using the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) with a willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000/QALY. One-way, multiway, and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were performed. Results: We identified six international societal-level guidelines. Base-case analysis showed the guideline proposed by the American Thoracic Society and Society of Thoracic Radiology (ATS-STR) yielded the highest health benefits (22.90 QALYs) and was cost-effective, with an ICER of $7,808 over the guidelines proposed by the Australian Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis and the Society of Obstetric Medicine of Australia and New Zealand (ASTH-SOMANZ). All remaining guidelines were dominated. The ATS-STR guideline-recommended strategy yielded an expected additional 2.7 QALYs/100 patients evaluated over the ASTH-SOMANZ. Conclusions were robust to sensitivity analyses, with the ATS-STR guidelines optimal in 86% of probabilistic sensitivity analysis scenarios. Interpretation: The ATS-STR guidelines for diagnosis of suspected PE in pregnancy are cost-effective and generate better expected health outcomes than guidelines proposed by other medical societies.
- VTE in pregnancy
- decision science
- health economics outcomes research