Canada is big user of MRI compared to U.S., U.K.
A report released this week shows that while Canada has fewer MRI scanners per million people than the U.S. and the U.K., they are used more intensively in patient treatment. The report was produced by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
The number of MRI scanners in 2005 was up more than 35 percent from five years earlier, while the number of CT scanners increased 19 percent. Despite the relative higher use of the scanners, Canada continued to rank below the median among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in MRI and CT scanners per million population, of which only the U.S. and England collect comparable data.

In 2004-2005, numbers of MRI exams per scanner were almost 40 percent higher in Canada than in the U.S. or England. At the same time, the U.S. performed more than three times the number of exams, reporting 83.2 MRI exams per 1,000 population in 2004-2005, compared to 25.5 in Canada and 19.0 in England, according to the release.

Canada also had about 50 percent more exams per CT scanner than the U.S.
However, when comparing exams per population, the U.S. performed nearly double the exams, with 172.5 CT exams per 1,000 population, compared to 87.3 in Canada.

For the first time, the report offers new data showing a substantial growth in the number of exams per 1,000 population. MRI exams per 1,000 population increased 13.3 percent in 2004-2005 from the year before, while CT exams per 1,000 population grew by 8 percent over the previous year.

"For the first time in Canada, we are able to look at not only how many machines we have, but also how those machines are being used," says Geoff Ballinger, CIHI health expenditures manager. "Knowing the number of machines is certainly useful, but international comparisons show it's equally important to know how many exams a machine actually performs. Higher scan rates can have a significant impact on the number of people getting exams."