Interventional oncology turns a profit for radiology groups

June 10, 2005

Although the infrastructure required to provide image-guided therapies to treat cancer is costly, interventional oncology practices can provide radiology departments with generous revenue, according to University of Pennsylvania researchers.

Although the infrastructure required to provide image-guided therapies to treat cancer is costly, interventional oncology practices can provide radiology departments with generous revenue, according to University of Pennsylvania researchers.

Dr. Catherine Tuite and colleagues reviewed data from 1999 to 2003 for 68 patients who underwent radiofrequency ablation of liver tumors at their outpatient interventional radiology clinic.

They found that the clinic provided substantial incremental income to the general radiology practice. They presented the findings at the 2005 meeting of the Society of Interventional Radiology.

The research team included financial and marketing analysts. It recorded all aspects involved with the workup of interventional oncology patients: initial consultation, diagnostic imaging, intervention, and follow-up.

Interventional radiologists performed 100 ablations with an average professional billing of $976.77 each. Follow-up imaging included MR, CT, and plain-film radiography.

Subsequent analysis of relative value units drawn against standard payment rates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services provided the department with a total professional revenue of $7000 and $10,000 per each new ablation and chemoembolization patient, respectively.

The average revenue to the radiology practice came to above $120,000 annually, said coauthor Dr. Michael C. Soulen.

"When RFA first came out in the late 1990s, we treated about six patients with liver cancer per year. Now we treat from two to six patients per day with all interventional oncology procedures," Soulen said.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Nonsurgical therapies mitigate pain from bone tumors

Lung RFA's midterm survival rates beat expectations

Insurance companies line up to reimburse for liver RFA

RF tumor ablation breaks through in clinical practice