From the Journals

Fetal fibronectin testing is infrequent



Fetal fibronectin testing was linked to longer gestation periods and a lower risk of delivery occurring within 3 days of the first hospital contact, but only about half of women with symptoms of preterm labor (PTL, weeks 24-37) received any testing at all for PTL, and just 14.0% received fFN, according to an analysis of administrative claims data from Medicaid enrollees in Texas.

Fetal fibronectin (fFN) testing can help determine the probability of spontaneous preterm birth in the following 14 days.

The results reinforce the value of fFN in predicting spontaneous preterm birth, but also underline the need for additional testing.

Women who received the fFN test incurred an additional cost of $2,252, compared with those who did not receive the test, but their gestation periods lasted an average of 9 additional days. The researchers point out that a conservative cost of time spent in the neonatal intensive care unit is $3,000-$3,500 per day, so that the increased cost of testing would be likely be offset by cost reductions in preterm births.

The study comprised 29,553 women aged 21 years and older who went to the emergency department or were admitted to the hospital with PTL between Jan. 1, 2012, and May 31, 2015. During the 5 months prior to delivery, 74.0% of the subjects received a PTL diagnosis, and 26.0% were diagnosed with threatened PTL, defined as early, threatened, or false labor. Nearly half of the patients (49.8%) underwent at least one PTL test, most often transvaginal ultrasound (44.1%). Just 14.0% of patients received fFN testing.

The researchers used propensity score matching to account for baseline differences in risk factors for the two groups, creating two groups of 4,098 patients (fFN and non-fFN) for the final cohort study.

Patients who received fFN testing were less likely to deliver during the initial health care visit (45.9% vs. 59.3%; P less than .0001) and had a longer mean time to delivery (24.6 days vs. 15.2 days; P less than .0001). They were less likely to deliver within 3 days of the initial visit (49.1% vs. 63.9%; P less than .0001).

Women who received fFN testing had higher all-cause maternal health care costs ($15,238.20 vs. $12,985.80; P less than .0001).

The study did not include newborn outcomes and health care costs. “It is unknown whether use of fFN testing is associated with improved newborn outcomes; if it is, fFN testing could potentially reduce newborn-incurred costs, offsetting the costs associated with testing,” the authors wrote.

SOURCE: Barner J et al. Am J Manag Care. 2017 Dec;23(19 Suppl):S363-70.

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