November 14, 2019 --
The research project stemmed from a realization that CTA studies evaluating the aorta were "one of the most image-intensive studies we interpret in the emergency department, easily consisting of thousands of images per study with many reformats," lead study author Dr. David Tso of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) told AuntMinnie.com.
The researchers also noticed that the number of positive findings were relatively low, and they suspected that the exams were overutilized in the acute care setting. Overutilization in the ED can result in greater workload and cognitive burden on the radiologist -- potentially leading to burnout, according to the team.
As a result, Tso, senior author Dr. Efren Flores, and colleagues from MGH's division of emergency radiology sought to quantity the increasing workload from CTA of the aorta. They found that the number of CTA aorta exams increased 163% over the 10-year study period, with the number of images per study increasing sixfold.
Although the number of CTA exams increased over time, the number of studies with aortic pathology remained relatively constant. The researchers believed that multiple factors have contributed to the growth in imaging utilization, including an increased role for CT as a screening modality in the ED, improved efficiencies in CT that enable more patients to be imaged, and medicolegal considerations.
They also found that radiologists also experienced an increase in noninterpretive tasks related to these exams, with substantially more recommendation for follow-up imaging and documented verbal communication.
"Thus, the radiologist workload is increasing both for interpretive and noninterpretive tasks over time," Tso said.
What solutions do the researchers suggest for this problem? Attend this presentation to find out.