Incremental cost-effectiveness of exercise echocardiography vs. SPECT imaging for the evaluation of stable chest pain

Leslee J. Shaw, Thomas H. Marwick, Daniel S. Berman, Stephen Sawada, Gary V. Heller, Charles Vasey, D. Douglas Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Aims: Technological advances in cardiac imaging have led to dramatic increases in test utilization and consumption of a growing proportion of cardiovascular healthcare costs. The opportunity costs of strategies favouring exercise echocardiography or SPECT imaging have been incompletely evaluated. Methods and results: We examined prognosis and cost-effectiveness of exercise echocardiography (n = 4884) vs. SPECT (n = 4637) imaging in stable, intermediate risk, chest pain patients. Ischaemia extent was defined as the number of vascular territories with echocardiographic wall motion or SPECT perfusion abnormalities. Cox proportional hazard models were employed to assess time to cardiac death or myocardial infarction (MI). Total cardiovascular costs were summed (discounted and inflation-corrected) throughout follow-up. A cost-effectiveness ratio <$50 000 per life year saved (LYS) was considered favourable for economic efficiency. The risk-adjusted 3-year death or MI rates classified by extent of ischaemia were similar, ranging from 2.3 to 8.0% for echocardiography and from 3.5 to 11.0% for SPECT (model χ2 = 216; P < 0.0001; interaction P = 0.24). Cost-effectiveness ratios for echocardiography were <$20 000/LYS when the annual risk of death or MI was <2%. However, when yearly cardiac event rate were >2%, cost-effectiveness ratios for echocardiography vs. SPECT were in the range of $66 686-$419 522/LYS. For patients with established coronary disease (i.e. ≥2% annual event risk), SPECT ischaemia was associated with earlier and greater utilization of coronary revascularization (P < 0.0001) resulting in an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $32 381/LYS. Conclusion: Health care policies aimed at allocating limited resources can be effectively guided by applying clinical and economic outcomes evidence. A strategy aimed at cost-effective testing would support using echocardiography in low-risk patients with suspected coronary disease, whereas those higher risk patients benefit from referral to SPECT imaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2448-2458
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Heart Journal
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cost effectiveness
  • Echocardiography
  • Prognosis
  • Stable angina

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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