Structural neuroimaging in psychosis: a systematic review and economic evaluation

Albon E, Tsourapas A, Frew E, Davenport C, Oyebode F, Bayliss S, Arvanitis T, Meads C
Record ID 32008100023
Authors' objectives:

To establish the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of structural neuroimaging [structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scanning] for all patients with psychosis, particularly a first episode of psychosis, relative to the current UK practice of selective screening only where it is clinically indicated.

Authors' results and conclusions: The systematic review included 24 studies of a diagnostic before–after type of design evaluating the clinical benefit of CT, structural MRI or combinations in treatment-naïve, first-episode or unspecified psychotic patients, including one in schizophrenia patients resistant to treatment. Also included was a review of published case reports of misidentification syndromes. Almost all evidence was in patients aged less than 65 years. In most studies, structural neuroimaging identified very little that would influence patient management that was not suspected based on a medical history and/or physical examination and there were more incidental findings. In the four MRI studies,approximately 5% of patients had findings that would influence clinical management, whereas in the CT studies, approximately 0.5% of patients had these findings. The review of misidentification syndromes found that 25% of CT scans affected clinical management, but this may have been a selected and therefore unrepresentative sample. A threshold analysis with a 1-year time horizon was undertaken. This combined the incremental cost of routine scanning with a threshold cost per QALY value of £20,000 and £30,000 to predict the QoL gain required to meet these threshold values. Routine scanning versus selective scanning appears to produce different results for MRI and CT. With MRI scanning the incremental cost is positive, ranging from £37 to £150; however, when scanning routinely usingCT, the result is cost saving, ranging from £7 to £108 with the assumption of a 1% prevalence rate of tumours/cysts or other organic causes amenable to treatment. This means that for the intervention to be viewed as cost-effective, the QALY gain necessary forMRI scanning is 0.002–0.007 and with CT scanning the QALY loss that can be tolerated is between 0.0003 and 0.0054 using a £20,000 threshold value. These estimates were subjected to sensitivity analysis. With a 3-month time delay, MRI remains cost-incurring witha small gain in QoL required for the intervention to be cost-effective; routine scanning with CT remains costsaving. When the sensitivity of CT is varied to 50%, routine scanning is both cost-incurring or cost-saving depending on the scenario. Finally, the results havebeen shown to be sensitive to the assumed prevalence rate of brain tumours in a psychotic population.
Authors' recommendations: The evidence to date suggests that if screening with structural neuroimaging was implemented in all patients presenting with psychotic symptoms, little would be found to affect clinical management in addition to that suspected by a full clinical history and neurological examination. From an economic perspective, the outcome is not clear. The strategy of neuroimaging for all is either cost-incurringor cost-saving (dependent upon whether MRI or CT is used) if the prevalence of organic causes is around 1%. However, these values are nested within a number of assumptions, and so have to be interpreted with caution. The main research priorities are to monitor the current use of structural neuroimaging in psychosis in the NHS to identify clinical triggers to its current use and subsequent outcomes; to undertake wellconducted diagnostic before-and-after studies on representative populations to determine the clinical utility of structural neuroimaging in this patient group, and to determine whether the most appropriate structural imaging modality in psychosis shouldbe CT or MRI.
Authors' methods: Systematic review and economic evaluation
Project Status: Completed
URL for project:
Year Published: 2008
English language abstract: An English language summary is available
Publication Type: Not Assigned
Country: England, United Kingdom
MeSH Terms
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Organisation Name: NIHR Health Technology Assessment programme
Contact Address: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health and Care Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK
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Copyright: 2008 Queen's Printer and Controller of HMSO
This is a bibliographic record of a published health technology assessment from a member of INAHTA or other HTA producer. No evaluation of the quality of this assessment has been made for the HTA database.