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What is the cost of delayed diagnosis of bile acid malabsorption and bile acid diarrhoea?


Introduction 75Selenium taurocholic acid (SeHCAT) scanning diagnoses bile acid malabsorption/bile acid diarrhoea (BAM/BAD) and defines optimal treatment. Approximately 2% of the population have BAM/BAD.

Aim To evaluate the cost of delayed diagnosis of BAM/BAD.

Methods Patients’ notes who underwent SeHCAT scanning in three hospitals over a 1-year period were reviewed retrospectively. Scan results and treatment response were recorded. Package-of-care costs were calculated using costing tools from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and from United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust business unit.

Results Between June 2016 and May 2017, 19 men and 37 women (median age 58 (range 19–83)) of 3860 new patients seen in gastroenterology clinics were referred for SeHCAT scanning. Sixty-four per cent of scans were abnormal: 13 demonstrated severe (<5% 7-day SeHCAT retention), 13 moderate (5%–10%), 5 mild (10%–15%) and 5 borderline (15%–20%) BAD/BAM. Likely causes included primary BAD (n=16), cholecystectomy (n=13), inflammatory bowel disease (n=4) and other (n=3). If SeHCAT scanning was ordered at first consultation (n=11), patients reported 24 months (median) of symptoms (range 6–360) and the median diagnostic package-of-care cost was £811.40 (95% CI £625.59 to £1508.20). If SeHCAT scanning was booked later (n=25), patients reported symptoms for 30 months (median, range 0.5–360) and the cost was £1568.31 (95% CI £1200.55 to £1713.18). Following diagnosis, treatment led to symptom improvement (n=24), no change/deterioration (n=3) and not reported (n=9).

Conclusions SeHCAT is underused. Late diagnosis leads to unnecessary demands for other services and treatment delay. Early diagnosis achieves health benefits while reducing costs.

  • bile
  • cost-effectiveness
  • diarrhoeal disease
  • health economics
  • irritable bowel syndrome

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