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CT, MRI During Injury-Related ER Visits on the Rise

Emergency department scans more than doubled in a decade, though rate of admission is stable

TUESDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The use of advanced radiographic techniques during injury-related emergency department visits has increased despite no real change in the number of life-threatening or admission-requiring diagnoses, according to research published in the Oct. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Frederick Kofi Korley, M.D., of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a retrospective cross-sectional analysis of emergency department visits using data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 1998 to 2007. The purpose of the study was to determine whether there has been a change in the proportion of injury-related visits during which a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan was obtained, and whether diagnosis of life-threatening conditions and patient disposition have changed.

The researchers found a significant increase in use of MRI and CT during injury-related emergency department visits over the study period (6 percent increasing to 15 percent). The prevalence of life-threatening conditions over this period rose only slightly and there was no significant change in admission to the hospital or intensive care unit. The researchers noted that visits including MRI or CT scanning lasted 126 minutes longer than visits that did not include them.

"Time and monetary costs are associated with obtaining advanced radiology, and potential health risks occur for the patients receiving MRI or CT. Further work is needed to understand the patient, hospital, and physician factors responsible for this increase and to optimize the risk-benefit balance of advanced radiology use," write the authors.

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