Which screening strategy using BMD measurements would be most cost effective for hip fracture prevention in elderly women? A decision analysis based on a Markov model

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Hip fractures are responsible for excessive mortality, decreasing the 5-year survival rate by about 20%. From an economic perspective, they represent a major source of expense, with direct costs in hospitalization, rehabilitation, and institutionalization. The incidence rate sharply increases after the age of 70, but it can be reduced in women aged 70-80 years by therapeutic interventions. Recent analyses suggest that the most efficient strategy is to implement such interventions in women at the age of 70 years. As several guidelines recommend bone mineral density (BMD) screening of postmenopausal women with clinical risk factors, our objective was to assess the cost-effectiveness of two screening strategies applied to elderly women aged 70 years and older.


A cost-effectiveness analysis was performed using decision-tree analysis and a Markov model. Two alternative strategies, one measuring BMD of all women, and one measuring BMD only of those having at least one risk factor, were compared with the reference strategy “no screening”. Cost-effectiveness ratios were measured as cost per year gained without hip fracture. Most probabilities were based on data observed in EPIDOS, SEMOF and OFELY cohorts.


In this model, which is mostly based on observed data, the strategy “screen all” was more cost effective than “screen women at risk.” For one woman screened at the age of 70 and followed for 10 years, the incremental (additional) cost-effectiveness ratio of these two strategies compared with the reference was 4,235 euros and 8,290 euros, respectively.


The results of this model, under the assumptions described in the paper, suggest that in women aged 70-80 years, screening all women with dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) would be more effective than no screening or screening only women with at least one risk factor. Cost-effectiveness studies based on decision-analysis trees maybe useful tools for helping decision makers, and further models based on different assumptions should be performed to improve the level of evidence on cost-effectiveness ratios of the usual screening strategies for osteoporosis.

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