Economic evaluation of laboratory testing strategies for hospital-associated Clostridium difficile infection

Lee F. Schroeder, Elizabeth Robilotti, Lance R. Peterson, Niaz Banaei, David W. Dowdy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Clostridium difficile infection (CDI) is the most common cause of infectious diarrhea in health care settings, and for patients presumed to have CDI, their isolation while awaiting laboratory results is costly. Newer rapid tests for CDI may reduce this burden, but the economic consequences of different testing algorithms remain unexplored. We used decision analysis from the hospital perspective to compare multiple CDI testing algorithms for adult inpatients with suspected CDI, assuming patient management according to laboratory results. CDI testing strategies included combinations of on-demand PCR (odPCR), batch PCR, lateral-flow diagnostics, plate-reader enzyme immunoassay, and direct tissue culture cytotoxicity. In the reference scenario, algorithms incorporating rapid testing were cost-effective relative to nonrapid algorithms. For every 10,000 symptomatic adults, relative to a strategy of treating nobody, lateral-flow glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH)/odPCR generated 831 true-positive results and cost $1,600 per additional true-positive case treated. Stand-alone odPCR was more effective and more expensive, identifying 174 additional true-positive cases at $6,900 per additional case treated. All other testing strategies were dominated by (i.e., more costly and less effective than) stand-alone odPCR or odPCR preceded by lateral-flow screening. A cost-benefit analysis (including estimated costs of missed cases) favored stand-alone odPCR in most settings but favored odPCR preceded by lateral-flow testing if a missed CDI case resulted in less than $5,000 of extended hospital stay costs and<2 transmissions, if lateral-flowGDHdiagnostic sensitivity was >93%, or if the symptomatic carrier proportion among the toxigenic culture-positive cases was>80%. These results can aid guideline developers and laboratory directors who are considering rapid testing algorithms for diagnosing CDI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)489-496
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of clinical microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)


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