What causes increasing and unnecessary use of radiological investigations? A survey of radiologists' perceptions

BMC Health Serv Res. 2009 Sep 1;9:155. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-9-155.


Background: Growth in use and overuse of diagnostic imaging significantly impacts the quality and costs of health care services. What are the modifiable factors for increasing and unnecessary use of radiological services? Various factors have been identified, but little is known about their relative impact. Radiologists hold key positions for providing such knowledge. Therefore the purpose of this study was to obtain radiologists' perspective on the causes of increasing and unnecessary use of radiological investigations.

Methods: In a mailed questionnaire radiologist members of the Norwegian Medical Association were asked to rate potential causes of increased investigation volume (fifteen items) and unnecessary investigations (six items), using five-point-scales. Responses were analysed by using summary statistics and Factor Analysis. Associations between variables were determined using Students' t-test, Spearman rank correlation and Chi-Square tests.

Results: The response rate was 70% (374/537). The highest rated causes of increasing use of radiological investigations were: a) new radiological technology, b) peoples' demands, c) clinicians' intolerance for uncertainty, d) expanded clinical indications, and e) availability. 'Over-investigation' and 'insufficient referral information' were reported the most frequent causes of unnecessary investigations. Correlations between causes of increasing and unnecessary radiology use were identified.

Conclusion: In order to manage the growth in radiological imaging and curtail inappropriate investigations, the study findings point to measures that influence the supply and demand of services, specifically to support the decision-making process of physicians.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Diagnostic Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Norway
  • Radiology*
  • Unnecessary Procedures / statistics & numerical data*