Objective: The purpose of this article is to determine whether ownership of MRI equipment by ordering physicians influences the frequency of negative shoulder MRI scans.
Materials and methods: A retrospective review was performed of 1140 consecutive shoulder MRI scans ordered by two separate referring physician groups serving the same geographic community. The first group (financially incentivized) owned the scanners used and received technical fees for their use. The second group (non-financially incentivized) did not own the scanners used and had no direct financial interest. All examinations were performed with identical protocols and were interpreted by a single radiologist group without financial interest in the imaging equipment used. The frequency of negative examinations and the number of abnormalities in each positive study was tabulated for each group.
Results: A total of 1140 shoulder MRI scans met inclusion criteria; 255 were negative (142 for the financially incentivized group and 113 for the non-financially incentivized group). There were 25.6% more negative scans in the financially incentivized group (p=0.047). There was no statistically significant difference in the average number of lesions per positive scan (1.67 for the financially incentivized group and 1.71 for the non-financially incentivized group; p=0.34). No statistically significant difference was found in the frequency of 19 of 20 examined lesions.
Conclusion: Shoulder MRI examinations referred by physicians with a financial interest in the imaging equipment used were significantly more likely to be negative. Positive examinations exhibited no statistically significant difference in the number of lesions per scan or in the frequency of 19 of 20 lesion subtypes. This finding suggests a highly similar distribution and severity of disease among the two patient groups.