Background: Fetal growth restriction is a major risk factor for stillbirth. A routine late-pregnancy ultrasound scan could help detect this, allowing intervention to reduce the risk of stillbirth. Such a scan could also detect fetal presentation and predict macrosomia. A trial powered to detect stillbirth differences would be extremely large and expensive.
Objectives: It is therefore critical to know whether this would be a good investment of public research funds. The aim of this study is to estimate the cost-effectiveness of various late-pregnancy screening and management strategies based on current information and predict the return on investment from further research.
Methods: Synthesis of current evidence structured into a decision model reporting expected costs, quality-adjusted life-years, and net benefit over 20 years and value-of-information analysis reporting predicted return on investment from future clinical trials.
Results: Given a willingness to pay of £20 000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained, the most cost-effective strategy is a routine presentation-only scan for all women. Universal ultrasound screening for fetal size is unlikely to be cost-effective. Research exploring the cost implications of induction of labor has the greatest predicted return on investment. A randomized, controlled trial with an endpoint of stillbirth is extremely unlikely to be a value for money investment.
Conclusion: Given current value-for-money thresholds in the United Kingdom, the most cost-effective strategy is to offer all pregnant women a presentation-only scan in late pregnancy. A randomized, controlled trial of screening and intervention to reduce the risk of stillbirth following universal ultrasound to detect macrosomia or fetal growth restriction is unlikely to represent a value for money investment.
- economic evaluation
- third trimester
- value of information analysis