Objective: To determine the cost-effectiveness of a policy to screen surgeons for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection to prevent transmission of HIV to patients having invasive procedures.
Design: Cost-effectiveness analysis.
Results: A one-time national screening program would identify approximately 137 surgeons with HIV infection (range, 28 to 423 surgeons) and would prevent approximately 4.3 infections (range, 1.9 to 21.3 infections) in patients treated by infected surgeons and 0.9 infections (range, 0 to 12.9 infections) in sexual partners of infected surgeons at a direct cost of $8.1 million and an induced cost of approximately $44 million. It would result in expenditures of $458 000 per year of life saved (range, $147 000 to $687 000 per year of life saved), whereas an annual screening program would result in expenditures of approximately $1.1 million per year of life saved (range, $338 000 to $1 886 000 per year of life saved). If the prevalence of HIV infection in surgeons is estimated to be three times our base-case estimate (an increase from 0.1% to 0.3%), annual screening would result in expenditures of approximately $741 000 per year of life saved. If the probability of seroconversion after a patient is exposed to a contaminated instrument is increased to 5.0% from our base-case estimate of 0.29%, an annual screening program would still cost more than $228 000 per year of life saved.
Conclusion: Screening surgeons for HIV to prevent transmission of HIV to patients having invasive procedures requires expenditures per year of life saved that are considerably in excess of those of most accepted health interventions. Surveillance studies of patients treated by surgeons infected with HIV should be continued to confirm that transmission of HIV to patients having invasive procedures is rare.