The volume and cost of radiologic services in the United States in 1990

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1991 Sep;157(3):609-13. doi: 10.2214/ajr.157.3.1872247.


Knowing the total number of radiologic services provided in the United States and their cost is important. This information can, for example, indicate the opportunities available to a radiology practice considering opening a new office or show whether high-technology radiology is, as is widely assumed, an important factor in United States health costs. However, neither the total number of procedures nor their cost is known. We developed two largely independent estimates of each total (one based principally on surveys of radiologists, the other on Medicare data) to cross-validate the estimates and provide an indication of their uncertainty. We estimate that 260-330 million radiologic procedures were performed in the United States in 1990 (including both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and radiologic procedures performed by nonradiologists) and that payments for these services totaled $19 to $22 billion (including payments for technical components in the hospital setting). This total was approximately 3.5% of national spending on personal health care; high-technology radiology totaled less than half of this amount. The procedures numbered 1.0-1.3 per capita annually, an increase of some 10-40% since 1980. Of the spending total, $10 to $12 billion was paid to physician practices, with a substantial portion of this amount going ultimately to practice expenses, particularly in the office setting. Our results suggest that spending on high-technology radiology is too small to be a major explanation for the current level of health costs in the United States.

MeSH terms

  • Costs and Cost Analysis / statistics & numerical data
  • Data Collection
  • Medicare / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Radiography / economics
  • Radiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiology / economics*
  • Radiology / statistics & numerical data
  • Radiotherapy / economics
  • Radiotherapy / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States