Does NGAL reduce costs? A cost analysis of urine NGAL (uNGAL) & serum creatinine (sCr) for acute kidney injury (AKI) diagnosis

Parikh, Amay; Rizzo, John A.; Canetta, Pietro A.; Forster, Catherine; Sise, Meghan; Maarouf, Omar; Singer, Eugenia; Elger, Antje; Elitok, Saban; Schmidt-Ott, Kai M.; Barasch, Jonathon; Nickolas, Thomas


Urine neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (uNGAL) is a sensitive and specific diagnostic test for acute kidney injury (AKI) in the Emergency Department (ED), but its economic impact has not been investigated. We hypothesized that uNGAL used in combination with serum creatinine (sCr) would reduce costs in the management of AKI in patients presenting to the ED in comparison to using sCr alone.

Materials and methods

A cost simulation model was developed for clinical algorithms to diagnose AKI based on sCr alone vs. uNGAL plus sCr (uNGAL+sCr). A cost minimization analysis was performed to determine total expected costs for patients with AKI. uNGAL test characteristics were validated with eight-hundred forty-nine patients with sCr ≥1.5 from a completed study of 1635 patients recruited from EDs at two U.S. hospitals from 2007–8. Biomarker test, AKI work-up, and diagnostic imaging costs were incorporated.


For a hypothetical cohort of 10,000 patients, the model predicted that the expected costs were $900 per patient (pp) in the sCr arm and $950 in the uNGAL+sCr arm. uNGAL+sCr resulted in 1,578 fewer patients with delayed diagnosis and treatment than sCr alone (2,013 vs. 436 pts) at center 1 and 1,973 fewer patients with delayed diagnosis and treatment than sCr alone at center 2 (2,227 vs. 254 patients). Although initial evaluation costs at each center were $50 pp higher in with uNGAL+sCr, total costs declined by $408 pp at Center 1 and by $522 pp at Center 2 due to expected reduced delays in diagnosis and treatment. Sensitivity analyses confirmed savings with uNGAL + sCr for a range of cost inputs.


Using uNGAL with sCr as a clinical diagnostic test for AKI may improve patient management and reduce expected costs. Any cost savings would likely result from avoiding delays in diagnosis and treatment and from avoidance of unnecessary testing in patients given a false positive AKI diagnosis by use of sCr alone.


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July 16, 2017