CT Scans, MRIs and other Imaging Tests – Costly and Harmful

Sep 2, 2009 by

CT Scans, MRIs and other Imaging Tests – Costly and Harmful

If you have ever taken a CT scan or MRI, which is most likely the case, you would know just how costly these tests are. And, do you realize that at the facilities where these tests are conducted, the scan rooms are always marked out with huge “danger” signs, and everybody scrams leaving you alone with the machinery? Yes, the radiation and magnetic fields are damaging to health!

These are two of the most worrying aspects of the fact that the number of medical imaging tests conducted is on the rise.

Two Good Reasons to Reconsider Scans, such as CT and MRI

by Reuben Chow

When was the last time you had a CT scan or an MRI scan, and how often do you have them? Do you even know what the letters “CT” and “MRI” stand for? A recent study conducted by a team from the University of California-San Francisco has found that the use of such medical imaging tools is playing its part in rising health care costs, while at the same time subjecting patients to increasing levels of radiation exposure.

One fact we cannot deny is, the development of these technologies have allowed physicians and patients to have a very detailed look at the internal structures of one’s body, something which would otherwise be quite impossible without these scans. Not only are the images three-dimensional, they can capture both bone and tissue.

Details of Study

The study team, led by Rebecca Smith-Bindman, an associate professor of radiology at University of California-San Francisco, looked at data over a 10-year period of almost 400,000 patients who were part of a large-scale health maintenance plan in the state of Washington, called the “Group Health Cooperative”. The findings of the study were then extrapolated to apply to the entire United States.

Findings of Study

According to the study, which was published in the journal Health Affairs, CT and MRI scans have become part of the cocktail of common tests used for diagnostic purposes. In the last ten years, the use of imaging tests like CT and MRI scans have nearly doubled. While there were 260 tests per 1000 patients a decade ago, the figure has since risen to 478. In 1997, only 13.5% of the study subjects had taken a CT scan, an MRI scan, or both. By 2006, however, it had become 21%.

Prices have soared, too. A decade ago, the average imaging cost for each patient every year was $229, while the more recent figure was $443. That’s also almost a twofold jump. All in all, diagnostic imaging is a lucrative sector, bringing in tens of billions of dollars every year.

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