Improved Diagnostic Effectiveness with a Sequential Diagnostic Paradigm in Idiopathic Pediatric Sensorineural Hearing Loss

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Objectives:To determine whether a stepwise diagnostic paradigm is more diagnostically efficient and cost-effective than a simultaneous testing approach in the evaluation of idiopathic pediatric sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).Design:Prospective prevalence study.Setting:Tertiary referral children's hospital.Patients:Consecutive children (n = 150) presenting with idiopathic SNHL in the last 2 years.Interventions:All children were evaluated with full diagnostic evaluations including GJB2 screens, temporal bone computed tomography scans, and laboratory investigations.Main Outcome Measures:1) Diagnostic yields of GJB2 screens, imaging, and laboratory results per SNHL category; 2) Cost analysis comparing a sequential versus a simultaneous testing approach.Results:Overall, 12.0% of patients had biallelic mutations in the GJB2 gene, whereas 30% of patients had an abnormality on temporal bone scan. Laboratory testing did not reveal the SNHL etiology in any patient. While maintaining diagnostic accuracy, significant cost savings were inferred by using a sequential diagnostic algorithm. Our data show children with severe to profound SNHL should first be tested with a GJB2 screen, as opposed to those with milder SNHL, who should undergo imaging as the initial testing step. In patients with initially positive GJB2 or imaging screens, logistic regression analysis significantly predicted negative results on further testing.Conclusions:A stepwise diagnostic paradigm tailored to the level of the hearing loss in children with bilateral SNHL is more diagnostically efficient and cost effective than the more commonly used full, simultaneous testing approach. Laboratory investigation should not be routine but based on clinical history.

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