Written by Loren Grush
Results from medical imaging tests – such as CT scans, MRIs and more – have proven to be life-saving tools for doctors, revealing health issues that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. However, concern about these tests’ reliance on radiation has been raised over the years as more and more studies have revealed excessive radiation exposure to be linked with an increased risk of various adverse health effects.
Now, new research from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has found that imaging rates have increased drastically – about 10 percent per year – since 2004. Not only are the rates higher than ever, but the study found that patients are receiving relatively high doses of radiation due to repeat scanning.
Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the study even found an increase in imaging among health maintenance organization systems (HMOs), in which there are no financial motivations for doing such scans.
“One of the thoughts for the change in the rise of imaging is a change in the incentives,” Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at UCSF, told FoxNews.com. “So we wanted to study patients see if there was an increase when there weren’t an incentives, and the rate of growth is very similar in all the other settings. It suggests that financial factors may play a role, but there are other factors as well.”
To get their findings, Smith-Bindman and her colleagues studied close to 2 million patients every year for the course of 15 years. Each patient was enrolled in one of six integrated health care systems – including HMOs.
At the beginning of the study, the researchers found that 50 CT scans were obtained for every 1,000 adult patients. At the study’s conclusion, the number increased to 200 CT scans for every 1,000 patients – a 20 percent increase.
The amount of radiation patients received when undergoing medical imaging was found to be highly varied, and many people received extremely high doses after repeated testing.