Brain Imaging in ED on the Rise

Use of brain imaging in the ED increased dramatically since 1994, according to a study at ACR 2016.

Brain imaging in the emergency department (ED) grew dramatically and continues to be used in large numbers, according to a study presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from Georgia and Virginia sought to determine recent changes in the use of brain imaging in the ED among patients receiving Medicare. The study included all brain CTs and MR imaging done in the ER between 1994 and 2012, obtained from the national aggregate Medicare Physician Supplier Procedure Summary Master Files. The researchers also gathered data on CT angiography (CTA) and MR angiography (MRA) from 2001 through 2012 and calculated changing utilization rates.

The results showed that the use of brain imaging increased dramatically in the ED:

 Number of Examinations in 1994Number of Examinations in 2012Average Annual IncreaseTotal Increase, 1994-2012
Brain CT Volumes330,2962,757,89012.5%718%
Brain MR Volumes5,22888,26216.6%1588%
 Number of Examinations in 2001Number of Examinations in 2012Average Annual IncreaseTotal Increase, 2001-2012
Brain CTA Examinations37534,21845.1%9025%
Brain MRA Examinations5,34833,11018.2%519%













Brain CT is a frequently used brain imaging modality, but more research is needed to determine if this is the result of an increase in services related to ED-only visits and/or more expedited ED imaging of admitted inpatients, the researchers concluded.