Radiologists prefer MR but still find ultrasound underutilized

April 1, 2005

Although radiologists recognize ultrasound's value for the evaluation and diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions, most prefer to use MR imaging in their daily practice, according to a recent survey.

Although radiologists recognize ultrasound's value for the evaluation and diagnosis of musculoskeletal conditions, most prefer to use MR imaging in their daily practice, according to a recent survey.

Intrigued by the modality's popularity among nonradiologists, physicians from two renowned research centers set out to investigate radiologists' attitudes toward musculoskeletal ultrasound. Georgetown University Hospital's director of ultrasound, Dr. Sandra D. Allison, and two of her colleagues at Thomas Jefferson University sent a questionnaire via e-mail to 300 members of the Society of Skeletal Radiology and 105 members of the Society of Radiologists in Ultrasound.

They found that most imagers-sonologists and MR radiologists alike-think that musculoskeletal ultrasound is currently underutilized as an imaging modality. They presented their findings at the 2004 RSNA meeting.

The survey respondents were 110 radiologists averaging approximately 13 years of experience in the field. About 80% of them considered MRI the modality of choice to evaluate tendon, ligament, and muscle injuries. Almost 60%, however, stated that too few musculoskeletal ultrasound examinations were ordered.

Among the reasons backing their preferences, more than 80% of respondents indicated musculoskeletal ultrasound's reimbursement was too low. Almost 70% reported that their ultrasound training for musculoskeletal imaging was inadequate. In addition, 66.7% said that ultrasound required too much physician time.

The survey also accounted for the specialists' respective biases. Sonologists were more likely to favor ultrasound, while musculoskeletal radiologists inclined toward MRI, the researchers said.