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Rapid screening tests reduce unnecessary surveillance costs.Using polymerase chain reaction with universal preemptive isolation minimizes total costs.Using chromogenic agar 24-hour with targeted isolation minimizes total costs.Although polymerase chain reaction minimized inappropriate costs, the added cost per test was only offset with universal preemptive isolation.To mitigate methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections, intensive care units (ICUs) conduct surveillance through screening patients upon admission followed by adhering to isolation precautions. Two surveillance approaches commonly implemented are universal preemptive isolation and targeted isolation of only MRSA-positive patients.Decision analysis was used to calculate the total cost of universal preemptive isolation and targeted isolation. The screening test used as part of the surveillance practice was varied to identify which screening test minimized inappropriate and total costs. A probabilistic sensitivity analysis was conducted to evaluate the range of total costs resulting from variation in inputs.The total cost of the universal preemptive isolation surveillance practice was minimized when a polymerase chain reaction screening test was used ($82.51 per patient). Costs were $207.60 more per patient when a conventional culture was used due to the longer turnaround time and thus higher isolation costs. The total cost of the targeted isolation surveillance practice was minimized when chromogenic agar 24-hour testing was used ($8.54 per patient). Costs were $22.41 more per patient when polymerase chain reaction was used.For ICUs that preemptively isolate all patients, the use of a polymerase chain reaction screening test is recommended because it can minimize total costs by reducing inappropriate isolation costs. For ICUs that only isolate MRSA-positive patients, the use of chromogenic agar 24-hour testing is recommended to minimize total costs.