Nuclear imaging studies bounce back from 2006 decline

November 25, 2008

Nearly 16 million U.S. patients underwent nuclear imaging procedures in 2007, according to a report by marketing research firm IMV Medical Information Division. The figure shows a 3% jump compared with the 15.2 million patients who had a nuclear medicine exam back in 2006.

Nearly 16 million U.S. patients underwent nuclear imaging procedures in 2007, according to a report by marketing research firm IMV Medical Information Division. The figure shows a 3% jump compared with the 15.2 million patients who had a nuclear medicine exam back in 2006.

Approximately 15.7 million patients underwent these procedures in 7320 hospital and nonhospital sites during 2007. The figure represents a small but noticeable increase compared with a similar report released last year by the Des Plaines, IL, company. The previous report had found that the number of exams performed during 2006 had dropped 12% from 17.2 million patient visits recorded for 2005.

Several factors accounted for the earlier decrease, according to IMV senior director of market research Lorna Young. Health insurance companies are stepping up precertification requirements for nuclear medicine procedures. Hybrid imaging modalities have brought about turf encroachment.

About nine in 10 PET exams have been traditionally dedicated to oncology. After the introduction of PET/CT, many oncology procedures that used to be the exclusive purview of nuclear medicine began falling into the hands of competing subspecialties.

IMV analysts suggest that nuclear medicine utilization may again increase in 2008, rising to about 16 million procedures, Young said. IMV Medical Information Division released the report Nov. 10.

These safe and cost-effective techniques provide a wealth of useful information to help shape a patient's treatment plan. To ensure that these tests meet patient demand, however, the U.S. must create a reliable domestic supply of medical isotopes, said SNM President Dr. Robert Atcher.

"As this report demonstrates, nuclear medicine and molecular imaging procedures are essential elements of today's medical practice," Atcher told Diagnostic Imaging.

Report findings show:

  • The total number of patients receiving myocardial perfusion scans increased 5% from 8.54 million in 2006 to 8.93 million in 2007.

  • Nearly half of all nuclear imaging sites are cardiology offices and other nonhospital sites. Hospitals account for 55% of sites and two-thirds of procedures.

  • Hospital and nonhospital sites are equally likely to perform myocardial perfusion studies. Hospitals, though, are more likely to conduct bone scans, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, respiratory, infection, and tumor localization studies.

  • Dual-head SPECT cameras remain the most popular equipment purchase, but SPECT/CT purchases are rising.

  • Patient waiting times for nuclear imaging procedures have gone down.

IMV Medical Information Division, founded in 1977, specializes in medical imaging and other advanced healthcare technology markets. Its Market Summary Reports include interventional angiography, radiographic fluoroscopy, cardiac catheterization, CT, MRI, nuclear medicine, echocardiography, PET, radiation oncology, x-ray/DR/CR, and mammography.