Excessive Use of Medical Scans Varies By Region

News Picture: Excessive Use of Medical Scans Varies By Region

THURSDAY, March 12, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The overuse of expensive medical imaging such as MRI and CT scans is an ongoing cause of concern. Now, a study finds that if you're an American with low-risk prostate or breast cancer, your odds for getting an unnecessary scan vary based on where you live.

One expert said the unwarranted ordering of imaging scans can have a big ripple effect on medical bills.

Reining in the use of these scans "is important not only for the immediate economic impact of inappropriate testing, but also for the downstream costs caused by additional testing, both imaging and biopsies, that result from these tests," said Dr. Kathryn Evers, director of breast imaging at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. She was not involved in the new study.

The study was led by Dr. Danil Makarov of NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. His team examined the 2004-2007 medical records of more than 9,200 men with low-risk prostate cancer and nearly 30,400 women with low-risk breast cancer. All were treated at one of 84 different hospital referral regions across the country.

Overuse of medical imaging occurred among more than 44 percent of the men and nearly 42 percent of the women, the researchers found.

However, there were notable differences between regions, with higher rates in the Northeast, and lower rates in the Northwest and Utah.

"These findings challenge us to move in a different direction than focusing exclusively on individual patient/doctor decision making," Makarov, assistant professor of urology, population health and health policy at NYU Langone, said in a center news release.

Policy makers should target areas where imaging is overused and "promote incentives for appropriate care," he said. "Such a focus would enhance efforts to cut excessive health spending."

For her part, Evers said the study has "interesting and provocative questions about the role of regional differences in how health care dollars are spent."

The study was published online March 12 in the journal JAMA Oncology.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCES: Kathryn Evers, M.D., director of breast imaging, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia; NYU Langone Medical Center, news release, March 12, 2015