Rising Use of Diagnostic Medical Imaging in a Large Integrated Health System

Health Aff (Millwood). Nov-Dec 2008;27(6):1491-502. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.27.6.1491.


Little has been published characterizing specific patterns of the dramatic rise in diagnostic imaging during the past decade. In a large health plan, 377,048 patients underwent 4.9 million diagnostic tests from 1997 through 2006. Cross-sectional imaging nearly doubled over those years, rising from 260 to 478 examinations per thousand enrollees per year. Imaging with computed tomography (CT) doubled, and imaging with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tripled. Cross-sectional studies added to existing studies instead of replacing them, and the annual per enrollee cost of radiology imaging more than doubled. The dramatic rise in imaging raises both costs and radiation exposure.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / economics
  • Diagnostic Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Organizational Case Studies
  • Washington
  • Young Adult