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Use of Imaging Technology Skyrockets
Date:11/10/2008

ity to measure the costs and benefits of the dramatic rise in diagnostic imaging we've seen in the past decade," study author Laurence Baker, of Stanford University, said in a journal news release.

Another study in the same issue of Health Affairs found that from 1997 to 2006, the use of almost every type of imaging technology increased, including CT, MRI, ultrasound, nuclear medicine, X-rays and arteriography.

The analysis of patients enrolled in a large, nonprofit health-care system in Washington state also found that annual imaging costs more than doubled from $229 per enrollee in 1997 to $463 per enrollee in 2006.

When they studied specific technologies, Rebecca Smith-Bindman of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues found that:

  • Use of CT, MRI and ultrasound combined rose from 260 examinations per 1,000 enrollees in 1997 to 478 per 1,000 in 2006.
  • CT imaging more than doubled from 81 to 181 exams per 1,000 enrollees.
  • MRI imaging more than tripled from 22 to 72 exams per 1,000 enrollees.

Increases in medical imaging occurred across all patient groups, meaning that efforts to reduce the use of medical imaging can't focus on a single group according to age, sex or disease, the researchers said.

They wrote that it's "difficult to identify which imaging tests are most beneficial, and strategies that rely on financial disincentives tend to decrease imaging across the board, instead of selectively reducing unnecessary imaging."

More focus should be put on studying the cost-effectiveness of imaging tests and the effect on patient care so that policy makers, payers and providers can better determine how best to use these tests, the researchers recommended.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about diagnostic imaging<
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