Report: Use of advanced imaging up in ED

The use of advanced imaging technology for noninjury emergency department (ED) visits has increased dramatically, according to a report published September 8 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

NCHS researchers found that between 1999 and 2008, use of advanced medical imaging for ED visits related to abdominal pain increased by 122.6%, with 19.9% of visits in 1999 using imaging, compared with 44.3% in 2008. With respect to chest pain, use of imaging grew 367.6%, up from 3.4% of visits in 1999 to 15.9% in 2008. For all other noninjury ED visits, the use of advanced imaging increased by 122.1%, up from 8.6% to 19.1%.

In the report, titled "National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1999-2008," lead author Farida Bhuiya and colleagues noted that the number of noninjury ED visits made by people 18 years and older complaining of chest pain or abdominal pain rose from 1999 through 2008, but the proportion of those visits with a serious diagnosis did not increase.

"Advanced imaging may increase the amount of time that a patient spends in the ED, thereby slowing throughput and contributing to ED crowding and its adverse consequences," Bhuiya and colleagues wrote. "However, advanced imaging may help a physician to rule out conditions, thereby avoiding further unnecessary or risky diagnosis and therapy, and it may help confirm certain conditions, thereby leading to more effective and efficient therapy."

Bhuiya's team suggested that more research is needed to determine how much medical imaging for ED visits for chest or abdominal pain improves the diagnosis and treatment of serious conditions.

Related Reading

Mass. Medicaid losing money to overimaging, September 6, 2010

Study offers more nuanced view of U.S. imaging use rates, March 22, 2010

PET use by nonrads growing rapidly, March 2, 2010

One-quarter of outpatient CT and MR exams are inappropriate, March 1, 2010

CDC report: MRI, CT, PET use spikes in physician offices, ER, February 18, 2010

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