OAK BROOK, Ill. A new study reports that the use of computed tomography (CT) in the nation's emergency departments is growing exponentially. If the growth trend continues, by 2011, nearly 20 percent of all emergency department (ED) visits may involve a CT exam. The results of this study were presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and published online and in the journal Radiology.
"It is not surprising that CT utilization has increased," said lead researcher David B. Larson, M.D., M.B.A., director of quality improvement in the department of radiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. "What's surprising is the sustained high rate of that growth. However, recent developments, such as increased awareness of cost, radiation concerns, national health care reform legislation and the economic recession, are likely to inhibit further growth."
Dr. Larson's research team used data collected by the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 1995 through 2007 to identify nationwide trends associated with CT use in the ED. The researchers performed statistical analysis on a mean of 30,044 ED visits from each year over the 13-year period to estimate overall usage of CT in the ED.
"We have seen a remarkable growth in CT utilization, not only in the number of ED visits that involve CT imaging but in the percentage of patients walking into the ED that receive a CT," Dr. Larson said.
According to the analysis, the number of ED visits that included a CT exam increased from 2.7 million in 1995 to 16.2 million in 2007, a 5.9-fold increase and an average growth rate of 16 percent per year. The percentage of ED visits involving a CT exam rose from 2.8 percent in 1995 to 13.9 percent in 2007.
"CT is a wonderful technique that is widely available," Dr. Larson said. "Over the 13 years in our study, image resolution improved significantly, making CT a great
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Radiological Society of North America