August 27, 2010

Medical Imaging: Too Much of a Good Thing?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Medical imaging techniques have offered lifesaving information for millions of patients over the past two decades. However, researchers publishing in the October issue of Radiology, say overusing imaging techniques can be dangerous and can contribute to high health care costs.

According to the authors, overusing medical imaging services can expose patients to unnecessary radiation. Between 1980 and 2006, the annual radiation dose from medical procedures among the U.S. population increased seven-fold.

"In most cases, an imaging procedure enhances the accuracy of a diagnosis or guides a medical treatment and is fully justified because it benefits the patients," William R. Hendee, Ph.D., the article's lead author and professor of radiology, radiation oncology, biophysics and bioethics at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, was quoted as saying. "But some imaging procedures are just not justified, because they are unnecessary for the patient's care. These are the uses of imaging that we, as medical physicists, radiologists, radiation oncologists and educators, are trying to identify and eliminate."

Dr. Hendee went on to say that many cases of imaging over-utilization are the result of doctors attempting to shield themselves against potential lawsuits. Self-referrals to physician-owned imaging facilities are another possible cause.

In a two-day summit, hosted by the American Board of Radiology Foundation in August 2009, participants offered several suggestions to reduce overuse of medical imaging. They called for a national collaborative effort to develop evidence-based criteria for imaging. Among other suggestions, they also recommended greater use of practice guidelines in requesting and conducting imaging exams, management of self-referral and defensive medicine issues and payment reform.

SOURCE: Radiology, October 2010