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Background/aimsUltrasonography has a low sensitivity for detecting early-stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in cirrhotic patients. Non-contrast abbreviated magnetic resonance imaging (aMRI) demonstrated a comparable performance to that of magnetic resonance imaging without the risk of contrast media exposure and at a lower cost than that of full diagnostic MRI. We aimed to investigate the cost-effectiveness of non-contrast aMRI for HCC surveillance in cirrhotic patients, using ultrasonography with alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) as a reference.MethodsCost-utility analysis was performed using a Markov model in Thailand and the United States. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were calculated using the total costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) gained in each strategy. Surveillance protocols were considered cost-effective based on a willingness-to-pay value of $4,665 (160,000 Thai Baht) in Thailand and $50,000 in the United States.ResultsaMRI was cost-effective in both countries with incremental cost-effectiveness ratios of $3,667/QALY in Thailand and $37,062/QALY in the United States. Patient-level microsimulations showed consistent findings that aMRI was cost-effective in both countries. By probabilistic sensitivity analysis, aMRI was found to be more cost-effective than combined ultrasonography and AFP with a probability of 0.77 in Thailand and 0.98 in the United States. By sensitivity analyses, annual HCC incidence was revealed as the most influential factor affecting cost-effectiveness. The cost-effectiveness of aMRI increased in settings with a higher HCC incidence. At a higher HCC incidence, aMRI would remain cost-effective at a higher aMRI-to-ultrasonography with AFP cost ratio.ConclusionsCompared to ultrasonography with AFP, non-contrast aMRI is a cost-effective strategy for HCC surveillance and may be useful for such surveillance in cirrhotic patients, especially in those with high HCC risks.

Original publication





Gut and liver

Publication Date



Division of Academic Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand.