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Trends in Use of CT and MRI in Wisconsin Emergency Departments

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Tina Pipkorn

July 28 2011

10 minutes


Mentor: James Svenson, M.D., M.S.

Department: Medicine – Division of Emergency Medicine

Background:  Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are two types of advanced imaging techniques used for diagnostic purposes in hospitals. Studies have shown that there has been an annual increase in usage of CT and MRI scans within the Medicare population of 12.6% and 10.6% respectively. This increase could be due to a number of reasons: changes in practice guidelines, the aging population, patient expectations, and medicolegal concerns. The increase in CT scans has lead to an increase in exposure to ionizing radiation, which has the possibility of leading to negative health effects in the long run. While studies have shown an increase in usage of CT and MRI scans in emergency departments (EDs) across the US, no studies have examined trends over time. Our study aims to examine trends of CT and MRI usage in Wisconsin EDs over a five year period (2006-2010). 

Methods:  Wisconsin ED and Radiology managers were contacted via phone and email and asked to provide data on yearly ED patient volumes and CT and MRI scans performed on ED patients. The data collected was interpreted to determine the percentage of ED patients receiving scans annually and trends were noted.

Results:  At this point in the study, there is not enough data to make any conclusions. The data that has been collected so far is showing an increase in percentage of ED patients who receive CT scans. There is no pattern in MRI scan usage at this time.

Conclusions:  Data collection will continue with the hope that enough hospitals will volunteer to participate to provide a significant data pool. An IRB application is being submitted to request data from the 14 Aurora EDs in Wisconsin.


Rural and Urban Scholars in Community Health (RUSCH) Summer Research Program


Emergency Medicine and Critical Care, Radiology, Rural Health, Urban Health
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