Educating referring docs about imaging decreases unnecessary exams
BOSTON--Unnecessary advanced imaging (CT, MRI and nuclear medicine) can be significantly reduced by educating ordering physicians of the associated risks, benefits and alternatives of various imaging modalities, according to a study presented this week at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS).

"Given the increased awareness of radiation from radiologic studies and increasing costs of medical imaging we hypothesized that a simple intervention of education will reduce unneeded studies and thereby decrease cost and radiation doses to patients," said the study's lead author, Joseph Platnick, MD, from Staten Island University Hospital in Staten Island, N.Y.

The researchers found that targeted education of referring clinicians led to a 26 percent reduction in the number of advanced radiologic studies ordered. There was an 18 percent reduction of CTs during the study period.

"CTs and nuclear medicine studies impart radiation to patients. Many patients have multiple scans over numerous admissions and these radiation doses are cumulative and have been shown to increase the patients' risk of cancer," Platnick said.

"While advanced imaging certainly plays a major and necessary role in patient care there are times when studies are not needed. Eliminating these studies is imperative to control the ballooning costs of healthcare without compromising on healthcare," he said.

"We hope our study will be reproduced in many other departments across many hospitals. The cumulative effect will significantly reduce patient radiation exposure thereby possibly reducing some iatrogenically induced cancers," said Platnick.

"In the future, more rigorous evaluations are needed to expand the appropriateness criteria already in place to better assist the referring clinicians in obtaining advanced imaging," he concluded.