Evaluation of the dyspeptic patient: A cost-utility study

Mark H. Ebell, Lawrence Warbasse, Christine Brenner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. Traditionally, patients presenting with uncomplicated dyspepsia have been managed using empiric antisecretory therapy, followed by endoscopy in the event of persistent symptoms or complication. Since Helicobacter pylori is now accepted as an important and potentially reversible cause of ulcer disease, it is important to reevaluate the management of dyspepsia. The goal of this study is to evaluate seven outpatient strategies for the management of dyspeptic patients using a cost- utility analysis. METHODS. The study design was that of a cost-utility analysis. The model assumes that an adult patient with signs of dyspepsia but no signs of complication presents to the outpatient office of a primary care physician. Seven strategies are modeled: empiric antisecretory therapy; empiric H pylon eradication using oral omeprazole (500 mg twice daily), clarithromycin (500 mg twice daily), and amoxicillin (1000 mg twice daily); use of either upper endoscopy, an upper gastrointestinal barium study (an upper GI), or the serum titer for H pylori as a diagnostic test to identify patients for H pylori eradication; or use of an initial diagnostic test followed by the serum titer for H pylori. The primary outcome was the cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) for each strategy for a 1-year period from presentation; secondary outcomes included the probability of symptomatic ulcer recurrence, cost per ulcer cure, and mortality. RESULTS. Three strategies were similarly cost-effective: empiric H pylori eradication ($1198 per QALY), use of a serum H pylori titer as an initial diagnostic test ($1214 per QALY), and empiric antisecretory therapy ($1288 per QALY). Empiric antisecretory therapy, however, was associated with significantly more symptomatic ulcer recurrences and deaths than any other strategy. CONCLUSIONS. This cost-utility analysis suggests that two strategies are reasonable for patients presenting with dyspepsia: (1) empiric H pylon eradication and (2) use of a serum H pylori titer to identify patients who might benefit from H pylori eradication. The latter strategy may be preferable because it is less likely to lead to antibiotic resistance. Strategies utilizing an upper GI or upper endoscopy (either with or without serum H pylori titer) or empiric antisecretory therapy do not improve outcomes and are associated with greater cost, morbidity, and/or mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-555
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 1997


  • Amoxicillin
  • Clarithromycin
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • Dyspepsia
  • Endoscopy
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Omeprazole
  • Peptic ulcer
  • Quality of life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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