Canada still lags behind in medical imaging usage, buying

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The supply of MRI and CT scanners in Canada has increased over four years, according to a new report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI). However, Canada still falls just below the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) median.

The OECD median is 15 CT scanners and seven MRI machines per million people in 2005, the latest year for which data are available, with 12 and six, respectively.

There were 419 CT scanners and 222 MRI machines installed and operational in Canada in 2007, up from 325 and 149, respectively, in 2003. Between 2006 and 2007, the number of CT scanners increased by 27 and the number of MRI scanners increased by 21. The rate of MRI and CT exams performed per 1,000 people in Canada rose by 43 percent and 28 percent, respectively, in the four years between 2003 and 2007, according to the CIHI report, “Medical Imaging in Canada, 2007.”

There were 103 CT exams per 1,000 people performed in Canada in 2007, less than the rate performed in both the United States (207) and Belgium (138), but higher than Sweden (89), Spain (57), England (54) and Denmark (34). In comparison, Canada's rate of MRI exams per 1,000 people (31) was higher than that in England (25), Spain (21) and Denmark (17), and lower than in the U.S. (89), Belgium (43) and Sweden (39). Information on scans per 1,000 people was available for only six OECD countries other than Canada.

Francine Anne Roy, director of health resources information at CIHI, said that the increases in imaging scanners over the last few years mean that the majority currently installed and in use in Canada are less than six years old.

The average number of MRI exams performed per scanner in Canada was 5,123 in 2007, up from 4,408 in 2003; for CT scanners, the average number of exams performed per scanner increased from 7,411 in 2003 to 8,735 in 2007. At the same time, the hours of operation for MRI scanners increased only slightly between 2003 and 2007 (66 to 71 hours per week) and decreased slightly for CT scanners (62 to 60 hours per week).

Between 2003 and 2007, the number of MRI scanners in free-standing imaging facilities increased from 26 to 41. Over the same time period, the number of CT scanners in free-standing imaging facilities grew from nine to 21. As of January 2007, about 5 percent of all CTs and 18 percent of all MRIs were in free-standing facilities.

In general, more exams per scanner are performed in hospitals than in free-standing facilities. Hospitals performed about twice the number of MRI exams per scanner than free-standing facilities (5,970 versus 2,530) with MRIs. In jurisdictions with CT scanners, the number of CT exams per scanner performed in hospitals was more than four times that in free-standing facilities (9,506 versus 2,160).