Results from an analysis of millions of medical records of Americans in HMO plans showed that the number of CTs, MRIs and other diagnostic scans skyrocketed since 1996, exposing Americans to a much higher amount of radiation than ever before.

While there isn’t any evidence that the increased exposure to radiation can cause harm to patients, some researchers are saying they believe that a lot of unnecessary testing is being conducted.

“We spend in the ballpark of $100 billion a year on medical imaging, and we need to invest some research dollars to figure out how best to spend these dollars and when to image more and when to image less,” said Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. “The impact on health outcomes should be the driver of these decisions, rather than the fact that a new test has simply become available and we are enamored with the images.”

Researchers looked and millions of HMO patients from 1996 to 2010. On average, patients underwent about one imaging test such as an X-ray each year. Roughly one-third of these tests were advanced diagnostic imaging tests, such as CTs, MRIs, ultrasounds and nuclear medicine.

According to the findings, the number of CT scans performed each year grew by nearly 8 percent each year, the number of MRIs grew by 10 percent each year, and the number of ultrasounds grew by about 4 percent each year.

The study also suggests that the number of patients who received a high level of radiation also increased over the course of the 15 year period.

According to Smith-Bindman, there isn’t enough information out there about the risk of scans. She said she believes they are overused.

Source: US News

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