Physicians Ordering Fewer Non-Emergency CTs

November 20, 2012

U.S. physicians ordered fewer non-emergency CTs in 2010 than in the previous nine years. Emergency CT use continues to grow.

U.S. physicians ordered fewer non-emergency CTs in 2010 than in the previous nine years, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

Researchers from Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals and Jefferson Medical College searched Medicare Part B databases from 2000 to 2010, the most recent year showing when and in what setting CTs were ordered.

Researchers found that while the CT utilization rate increased each year, from 325 per 1,000 patients in 2000 to 637 per 1,000 in 2009 - a compound annual growth rate of 7.8 percent - the rate dropped to 626 per 1,000 in 2010, a drop of 1.7 percent.

The decrease in CT use was more in non-emergency settings; emergency CT use continues to grow. Researchers also found:

• Inpatient CTs increased 5.5 percent from 2000 to 2009, dropped 4.5 percent in 2010;

• Outpatient CTs increased 5.1 percent from 2000 to 2009, dropped 3.6 percent in 2010;

• Private office CTs increased 11.3 percent from 2000 and 2009, dropped 7.8 percent in 2010;

• Emergency department CTs increased 15.2 percent from 2000 to 2009 and continued to grow by an additional 8.4 percent in 2010.

“After years of rapid growth, CT use in the Medicare population declined by 1.7 percent in 2010,” the authors concluded. If the emergency departments were not calculated in the overall numbers, the decline would have been 4.7 percent. This drop in CT use should help alleviate concerns about the overly rapid growth of CT use, the authors added.