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Banking umbilical cord blood costs more than $1.3 million per added year of life

September 22, 2009 |  2:07 pm


Most parents-to-be weighing whether to save their newborn's umbilical cord blood for possible future use understand that such future use is unlikely. But some new numbers could put the matter in perspective.

UC San Francisco researchers compared the private banking of umbilical cord blood against not banking the blood at all. Their conclusion: "Private cord blood banking is not cost-effective because it cost an additional $1,374,246 per life-year gained. In sensitivity analysis, if the cost of umbilical cord blood banking is less than $262 or the likelihood of a child needing a stem cell transplant is greater than 1 in 110, private umbilical cord blood banking becomes cost-effective."

In short, they found that the private banking of umbilical cord blood would probably be a good move only for children with a high likelihood of needing a stem cell transplant. For most children this is not the case.

Here's the abstract, published in the current issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. The full study isn't accessible to all, so here's the UC San Francisco news release.

Staff writer Shari Roan described some of the issues related to cord-blood banking in two stories published earlier this year:

From February: Cord blood: Banking on false hopes? "Stories like young Dallas Hextell's are spurring more parents to have their babies' umbilical cord blood saved to fight potential diseases -- but many medical groups don't recommend private banking."

And the March follow-up: Cord-blood banking: Worth it or not? "New parents have a lot to consider when choosing whether to bank a newborn's blood."

Staff writer Melissa Healy weighed in previously on the stem cell aspect: Stem cell hope, hype.

For more information, check out this pamphlet from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: The California Cryobank storage tank in Santa Monica can hold 2,000 units of umbilical cord blood. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times