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MRI Use Increasing for Evaluating Stroke Patients

Diagnostic imaging represents fastest growing component of hospital costs over past decade

MONDAY, March 12 (HealthDay News) -- The use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the evaluation of hospitalized stroke patients has dramatically increased over the past decade, according to an article published in the February issue of the Annals of Neurology.

James F. Burke, M.D., of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study with time trends utilizing data from state databases on the use of neuroimaging in 624,842 patients who were hospitalized and had a primary discharge diagnosis of stroke. Data were included for 11 states from 1999 to 2008.

The researchers found that, during the study period, the utilization of MRI increased for all states, with absolute MRI utilization increasing by 38 percent. While computed tomography utilization changed very little, the relative MRI utilization increased 235 percent, from 28 percent in 1999 to 66 percent in 2008. The use of MRI in stroke patients varied widely by geographic region, ranging from 55 percent in Oregon to 79 percent in Arizona. The fastest growing component of total hospital costs was diagnostic imaging, increasing 213 percent during the study period.

"The use of MRI in ischemic stroke has substantially increased over the past decade, with wide geographic variation and increasing contribution to the cost of stroke care," the authors write. "These findings emphasize the importance of future research to define which stroke patients are likely to benefit from MRI, how MRI information should be applied to individuals, and the relationship between MRI and clinically meaningful outcomes."

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