Researchers find CT use not the cause of a rise in costs of hospital stay

December 4, 2008

Increased use of CT for pneumonia is unlikely to be the sole cause of increased hospital costs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, according to a study presented Dec. 5 at RSNA

Increased use of CT to image pneumonia is unlikely to be the sole cause of increased hospital costs for pneumonia patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital, according to a study presented Dec. 5 at the RSNA meeting.

Michael Lu, Ph.D., a research fellow at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues retrospectively examined 1064 patients with a primary diagnosis of pneumonia from 1999 to 2006. The researchers retrieved information from hospital accounting and administration data.

The average length of stay was 9.2 days, 28.9% of patients were admitted to the ICU and 18.7% required mechanical ventilation. The researchers found the all-cause in-hospital mortality was 11.5%. Although the average number of CT studies per patient increased from 1999 to 2006, the average number of imaging studies did not. The number of chest radiographs did not change significantly with an average of 5.47 during the study period. The percentage of hospital costs remained fairly constant with an average of $20,505. Imaging costs went from $475 in 1999 to $726 in 2006.

Hospital and imaging costs have significantly increased but the fraction represented by imaging has remained constant, which suggests imaging is unlikely to be the reason for the cost increase, the researchers said.

The presenter of the abstract, Dr. Hansel Otero said it is unclear why the costs increased and this study was meant to show that increased use of CT was not the cause. A cost-effectiveness study is needed before the reason costs for the hospital jumped can be determined, he said.

The researchers compiled data from the hospital administration database and detailed information was left out, which limited the conclusions the researchers could make, he said.