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Short report
Early VEGF testing in inflammatory neuropathy avoids POEMS syndrome misdiagnosis and associated costs


Background Prompt diagnosis and early treatment prevents disability in Polyneuropathy Organomegaly Endocrinopathy Monoclonal-protein and Skin Changes (POEMS) syndrome. Delay in diagnosis is common with 55% of patients initially incorrectly diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP). Patients are often treated with intravenous immunoglobulin which is both expensive and ineffective in the treatment of POEMS. Testing patients with acquired demyelinating neuropathy with serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) more accurately identifies POEMS syndrome than the current standard of care. Incorporating VEGF testing into screening could prevent misdiagnosis and reduce costs.

Methods We used observed treatment information for patients in the University College London Hospital’s POEMS syndrome database (n=100) and from the National Immunoglobulin Database to estimate costs associated with incorrect CIDP diagnoses across our cohort. We conducted a model-based cost-effectiveness analysis to compare the current diagnostic algorithm with an alternative which includes VEGF testing for all patients with an acquired demyelinating neuropathy.

Results Treatment associated with an incorrect CIDP diagnosis led to total wasted healthcare expenditures of between £808 550 and £1 111 756 across our cohort, with an average cost-per-POEMS-patient misdiagnosed of £14 701 to £20 214. Introducing mandatory VEGF testing for patients with acquired demyelinating neuropathy would lead to annual cost-savings of £107 398 for the National Health Service and could prevent misdiagnosis in 16 cases per annum.

Conclusions Misdiagnosis in POEMS syndrome results in diagnostic delay, disease progression and significant healthcare costs. Introducing mandatory VEGF testing for patients with acquired demyelinating neuropathy is a cost-effective strategy allowing for early POEMS diagnosis and potentially enabling prompt disease-directed therapy.

  • neuropathy
  • haematology
  • health economics
  • health policy & practice
  • neuroimmunology

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