Report: Nuclear medicine patient procedures show downturn

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According to market research firm IMV’s Medical Information Division, there was a 12 percent decrease in nuclear medicine procedures performed in the United States in 2006. The data were compiled from 7,320 hospital and non-hospital nuclear medicine sites, which reported 17.2 million patient visits in 2005, compared with 15.2 million patient visits in 2006.

The drop in patient visits appears to be temporary; the Rockville, Md.-based IMV projects that the nuclear medicine patient visits will increase this year on the basis of survey that it conducted this year. However, the firm said that it forecasts only 16.3 patient visits for 2007, still below the 2005 level.

“Nuclear medicine utilization is continuing to be dominated by cardiovascular applications, which have grown from 54 percent of 2002 procedures to 60 percent in 2006,” noted Lorna Young, senior director, market research at IMV. “However, the drop in total nuclear medicine patient visits from 2005 levels may be, in part, due to pre-certification requirements from health insurance companies, which require patients to obtain insurer approval for imaging services prior to scheduling their procedure.”

“Oncology is the second major application of nuclear medicine procedures, and other modalities, such as PET/CT, may be cannibalizing some oncology procedures that previously belonged solely to nuclear medicine,” Young said.