Physician self-referral: frequency of negative findings at MR imaging of the knee as a marker of appropriate utilization

Radiology. 2013 Dec;269(3):810-5. doi: 10.1148/radiol.13130281. Epub 2013 Oct 28.


Purpose: To determine whether ownership of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging equipment by ordering physicians affects the likelihood of positive findings at MR imaging of the knee and to evaluate rates of knee abnormalities seen at MR imaging as a metric for comparison of utilization.

Materials and methods: The institutional review board approved this retrospective HIPAA-compliant study and waived the need for informed consent. A retrospective review was performed of consecutive diagnostic MR images of the knee interpreted by one radiology practice between January and April 2009 for patients who had been referred by two separate physician groups serving the same geographic community: one with financial interest (FI) in the MR imaging equipment used and one with no FI (NFI) in the MR imaging equipment used. The percentage of examinations with negative results was tabulated for both groups, and the relative frequency of each abnormality subtype was calculated among the studies with positive findings in each group. To examine frequency differences among groups, χ(2) tests were used, and to examine mean differences among groups, t tests were used.

Results: Of 700 examinations, 205 had negative results (117 of 350 in the FI group and 88 of 350 in the NFI group, P = .016). Among the examinations with positive results, the mean total number of positive abnormality subtypes per image did not significantly differ between groups: 1.52 for the FI group and 1.53 for the NFI group (P = .96).

Conclusion: MR images of the knee among patients referred by the FI group were significantly more likely to be negative than those among patients referred by the NFI group. Frequency of abnormality subtype and distribution among examinations with positive results suggests a highly similar distribution and severity of abnormalities between the two patient groups.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee / pathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / instrumentation
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Ownership
  • Physician Self-Referral*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Utilization Review