PURPOSE: Recent evidence suggests that an empiric trial of omeprazole (the 'omeprazole test') is sensitive and specific for diagnosing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as the cause of noncardiac chest pain. Our objective was to examine the clinical, economic, and policy implications of alternative diagnostic strategies for patients with noncardiac chest pain. METHODS: Decision analysis was used to evaluate the clinical and economic outcomes of two diagnostic strategies that begin with the omeprazole test (60 mg daily for 7 days) followed sequentially by invasive testing utilizing endoscopy, ambulatory 24-hour esophageal pH monitoring, and esophageal manometry as necessary, compared with two traditional strategies involving sequential invasive diagnostic tests. Cost estimates were based on Medicare reimbursement and the Red Book of average wholesale drug prices. Probability estimates were derived from a systematic review of the medical literature.RESULTS: The average cost per patient for the four diagnostic strategies varied from $1,859 to $2,313. Strategies utilizing the initial omeprazole test resulted in 84% of patients being symptom free at 1 year, compared with 73% to 74% for the strategies that began with invasive tests. The strategy of the omeprazole test, followed if necessary by ambulatory pH monitoring, then manometry, and then endoscopy, was both most effective and least expensive. It led to an 11% improvement in diagnostic accuracy and a 43% reduction in the use of invasive diagnostic tests, thus yielding an average cost savings of $454 per patient, compared with the strategy of beginning with endoscopy, then pH monitoring, and then manometry. CONCLUSIONS: Among patients with noncardiac chest pain, diagnostic strategies that begin with the omeprazole test result in reduced costs, improved diagnostic certainty, and a greater proportion of symptom-free patients at 1 year than do traditional strategies that begin with invasive diagnostic tests. Copyright (C) 1999 Excerpta Medica Inc.
ASJC Scopus subject areas