As medical imaging technology has increased in sophistication and accessibility over the past decade, it is little wonder that the number of scans has also been on the rise.
Conflicting reports have emerged about whether these additional tests are having a commensurate impact on diagnosis—and cure—rates. In fact, a new study shows that for life-threatening injuries, a threefold increase in the number of computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in emergency rooms has not resulted in an improvement in useful diagnosis.
On the ground, in hospital wards, however, doctors know that the scans can quickly help them see things that other tests cannot. “These CAT scans are way better than the x-rays,” says Frederick Korley, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and co-author of the new study. New CT scans can offer rapid and detailed information about a patient that extensive x-rays, physical examination and observation are often hard-pressed and slower to reveal.