Is it still worthwhile to perform quarterly cd4+ t lymphocyte cell counts on hiv-1 infected stable patients?
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BACKGROUND: In the last 20 years routine T CD4+ lymphocyte (CD4+) cell count has proved to be a key factor to determine the stage of HIV infection and start or discontinue of prophylaxis for opportunistic infections. However, several studies recently showed that in stable patients on cART a quarterly CD4+ cell count monitoring results in limited (or null) clinical relevance. The research is intended to investigate whether performing quarterly CD4+ cell counts in stable HIV-1 patients is still recommendable and to provide a forecast of the cost saving that could be achieved by reducing CD4+ monitoring in such a category of patients. METHODS: The study is based on data referring to all HIV-infected patients > 18 years of age being treated at two large infectious diseases units located in the metropolitan area of Genoa, Italy. The probability of CD4+ cell counts dropping below a threshold value set at 350 cells/mm3 is assessed using confidence intervals and Kaplan-Meier survival estimates, whereas multivariate Cox analysis and logistic regression are implemented in order to identify factors associated with CD4+ cell count falls below 350 cells/mm3. RESULTS: Statistical analysis reveals that among stable patients the probability of maintaining CD4+ >350 cell/mm3 is more than 98%. Econometric models indicate that HCV co-infection and HIV-RNA values >50 copies/mL in previous examinations are associated with CD4+ falls below 350 cells/mm3. Moreover, results suggest that the cost saving that could be obtained by reducing CD4+ examinations ranges from 33 to 67%. CONCLUSIONS: Empirical findings shows that patients defined as stable at enrollment are highly unlikely to experience a CD4+ value <350 cell/mm3 in the space/arc of a year. The research supports a recommendation for annual CD4+ monitoring in stable HIV-1 patients.
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