, Volume 32, Issue 9, pp 1033-1040
Date: 05 May 2005

Positron emission tomography with selected mediastinoscopy compared to routine mediastinoscopy offers cost and clinical outcome benefits for pre-operative staging of non-small cell lung cancer

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18F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (FDG-PET) imaging is an important staging procedure in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). We aimed to demonstrate, through a decision tree model and the incorporation of real costs of each component, that routine FDG-PET imaging as a prelude to curative surgery will reduce requirements for routine mediastinoscopy and overall hospital costs.


A decision tree model comparing routine whole-body FDG-PET imaging to routine staging mediastinoscopy was used, with baseline variables of sensitivity, specificity and prevalence of non-operable and metastatic disease obtained from institutional data and a literature review. Costings for hospital admissions for mediastinoscopy and thoracotomy of actual patients with NSCLC were determined. The overall and average cost of managing patients was then calculated over a range of FDG-PET costs to derive projected cost savings to the community.


The prevalence of histologically proven mediastinal involvement in patients with NSCLC presenting for surgical assessment at our institution is 20%, and the prevalence of distant metastatic disease is 6%. Based on literature review, the pooled sensitivity and specificity of FDG-PET for detection of mediastinal spread are 84% and 89% respectively, and for mediastinoscopy, 81% and 100%. The average cost of mediastinoscopy for NSCLC in our institution is AUD$4,160, while that of thoracotomy is AUD$15,642. The cost of an FDG-PET scan is estimated to be AUD$1,500. Using these figures and the decision tree model, the average cost saving is AUD$2,128 per patient.


Routine FDG-PET scanning with selective mediastinoscopy will save AUD$2,128 per patient and will potentially reduce inappropriate surgery. These cost savings remain robust over a wide range of disease prevalence and FDG-PET costs.