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Medical imaging rates continue to rise despite push to reduce their use

Potential harms need to be considered before scanning, researchers conclude


Despite a broad campaign among physician groups to reduce the amount of imaging in medicine, the rates of use of CT, MRI, and other scans have continued to increase in both the United States and Ontario, Canada, according to a new study of more than 135 million imaging exams conducted by researchers at UC Davis, UC San Francisco, and Kaiser Permanente. A recent reacceleration in the growth of imaging concerns researchers because it is widely believed to be overused.

The study, published Sept. 3, 2019, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, is the first of its size to determine imaging rates across different populations. It found that although the growth in imaging slowed in the early 2000s, it ticked back up in recent years for computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in most patient age groups. A notable exception was a decline in CT use in children in recent years.

Marilyn Kwan, PhD, co-investigator of JAMA study on advanced medical imaging.

“Our capture of medical imaging utilization across seven U.S. health care systems and Ontario, Canada, over a 16-year period provides one of the most comprehensive assessments to date of imaging from children to older adults in North America,” said Marilyn Kwan, PhD, co-author and senior research scientist in the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research.

Read more more on UC Davis Health.

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