Nuclear imaging patient visits increase 3% after 12% decline

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An estimated 15.7 million patients received nuclear imaging procedures in the United States in 2007, in 7,320 hospital and non-hospital sites—a 3 percent increase in patient visits from 15.2 million in 2006, according to a report by IMV Medical Information Division.

“Last year at this time, we observed a 12 percent downturn in patient visits from 17.2 million in 2005 to 15.2 million in 2006, which we attributed to several factors, including pre-certification requirements from health insurance companies as well as competing technologies, such as PET/CT oncology procedures,” said Lorna Young, Senior Director, Market Research, IMV Medical Information Division. “Now, we are seeing a slight resurgence to 15.7 million in 2007, and based on year-to-date estimates, anticipate 2008 to close out at 16 million patient visits, which are still below 2005 levels.”

The report analyzes trends in new technologies and in nuclear medicine patient visits by procedure type, radiopharmaceutical and pharmacological stress agent utilization, camera and computer installed base by manufacturer and year of installation, planned purchases, networking and site operations characteristics.

Highlights include:

  • From 2006 to 2007, the total number of patients receiving myocardial ischemia/perfusion scans increased 5 percent from 8.54 million to 8.93 million;
  • While dual-head SPECT cameras are the most preferred camera type being considered, comprising more than two-thirds of the planned camera purchases, SPECT/CT is starting to emerge, comprising more than 12 percent of the purchase plans;
  • Some 45 percent of the nuclear imaging sites are non-hospitals (e.g. cardiology offices), and 55 percent are hospital-based. While hospitals comprise 55 percent of the sites, they account for two-thirds of the nuclear imaging procedures;
  • The hospital and non-hospital sites are equally likely to be performing myocardial ischemia/perfusion studies, with less than 89 percent performing. Hospitals are more likely to be conducting the other study types than are non-hospitals, including bone scans, liver/hepatobiliary, renal, respiratory, infection/abscess and tumor localization studies; and
  • Patient waiting times for nuclear imaging procedures have decreased, with the waiting times of one or more days for scheduled outpatient procedures decreasing from 77 percent of the sites in 2003 to 52 percent of the sites in 2008.