A new study reported on in Health Leaders Media says that use of CT scans in hospital emergency departments for such comparatively unserious injuries as bone fractures and sprains has nearly doubled over the last 10 years.
The study from researchers at the University of California at San Francisco found that 7.17 percent of patients treated for minor injuries at EDs in California underwent at least one CT scan in 2013, up from just 3.51 percent of patients in 2005. The study, in the Jan. 19 edition of the Journal of Surgical Research, looked at more than 8 million patient visits to 348 California hospitals using data from the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD).
Renee Hsia, M.D., an emergency physician and the study’s senior author, said: “The reasons for this increase are multi-factorial. They range from defensive medicine practices, the superior diagnostic accuracy of CT scans compared with X-rays, to their increased availability and convenience in emergency departments, and the demand to expedite the discharge of patients.”
How about the added revenue that providers get from ordering CT scans?
The study also noted that, while CT scans can expose patients to “ionizing radiation that is associated with an increased risk of cancer.”
The study noted that CT scans were more likely to be ordered in emergency departments with trauma centers: 39 percent of all CT scans in the study were ordered at Level I and Level II trauma centers.
“This may reflect an underlying work culture centered around the management of severely injured patients, guided by standard trauma CT protocols, and also the fact that level I and II trauma centers see sicker patients.”