To determine the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of testing for and empirically treating herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection in neonates with fever aged from birth to 28 days.
Neonates with fever with no other symptoms and neonates with fever with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pleocytosis.
Four clinical strategies: (1) HSV testing and empirical treatment while awaiting test results; (2) HSV testing and treatment if test results were positive for HSV or the patient had symptoms of HSV; (3) treatment alone without testing; or (4) no HSV testing or treatment unless the patient exhibited symptoms. The 2 HSV testing methods used were CSF HSV polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and comprehensive evaluation with blood HSV PCR, CSF HSV PCR, and multiple viral cultures.
Main Outcome Measures
Twelve-month survival and quality-adjusted life expectancy with a cost-effectiveness threshold of $100 000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained.
Clinical strategy 1, when applied in febrile neonates with CSF pleocytosis, saved 17 lives per 10 000 neonates and was cost-effective using CSF HSV PCR testing ($55 652/QALY gained). The cost-effectiveness of applying clinical strategy 1 in all febrile neonates depended on the cost of the CSF HSV PCR, prevalence of disease, and parental preferences for neurodevelopmental outcomes. Clinical strategies using comprehensive HSV testing were not cost-effective in febrile neonates ($368 411/QALY gained) or febrile neonates with CSF pleocytosis ($110 190/QALY gained).
Testing with CSF HSV PCR and empirically treating with acyclovir sodium saves lives and is cost-effective in febrile neonates with CSF pleocytosis. It is not a cost-effective use of health care resources in all febrile neonates.