Advanced radiology utilization in a tertiary care emergency department from 2001 to 2010

PLoS One. 2014 Nov 18;9(11):e112650. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112650. eCollection 2014.


Objective: To evaluate the utilization trends of advanced radiology, i.e. computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), examination in an emergency department (ED) of an academic medical center from 2001 to 2010.

Patients and methods: We assessed the overall CT and MRI utilization, and the ED patient encounters. Each examination was evaluated according to the patient's age and anatomically relevant regions.

Results: During the study period, 737,760 patient visited the ED, and 156,287 CT and 35,018 MRI examinations were performed. The number of annual ED patients increased from 63,770 in 2001 to 94,609 in 2010 (P = 0.018). The rate of CT utilization increased from 105.5 per 1000 patient visits in 2001 to 289.2 in 2010 (P<0.001), and the rate of MRI utilization increased from 8.1 per 1000 patient visits in 2001 to 74.6 in 2010 (P<0.001). In all of the patient age groups, the overall CT and MRI utilization increased. The greater the patient age, the more likely the use of advanced radiology [CT: 87.1 per 1000 patients in age <20 vs. 293.9 per 1000 in age>60 (P<0.001); MRI: 5.1 per 1000 patients in age <20 vs. 108.7 per 1000 in age>60 (P<0.001)]. Abdomen-pelvis (40.2%) and the head (35.7%) comprised the majority of CT scans, while the head (86.4%) comprised the majority of MRI examinations. The rates of advanced radiology use increased across all anatomical regions, with the highest increase being in chest CT (5.9 per 1000 to 49.2) and head MRI (7.2 per 1000 to 61.9).

Conclusion: We report a three-fold and nine-fold increase in the use of CT and MRI, respectively, during the study period. Additional studies will be required to understand the causes of this change and to determine the effect of advanced radiology utilization on the patient outcome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiology / methods*
  • Tertiary Care Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / statistics & numerical data*

Grant support

The authors have no support or funding to report.