The Relative Value Unit: History, Current Use, and Controversies

Curr Probl Diagn Radiol. Mar-Apr 2016;45(2):128-32. doi: 10.1067/j.cpradiol.2015.09.006. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


The relative value unit (RVU) is an important measuring tool for the work performed by physicians, and is currently used in the United States to calculate physician reimbursement. An understanding of radiology RVUs and current procedural terminology codes is important for radiologists, trainees, radiology managers, and administrators, as this knowledge would help them to understand better their current productivity and reimbursement, as well as controversies regarding reimbursement, and permit them to adapt to reimbursement changes that may occur in the future. This article reviews the components of the RVU and how radiology payment is calculated, highlights trends in RVUs and resultant payment for diagnostic and therapeutic imaging and examinations, and discusses current issues involving RVU and current procedural terminology codes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S.
  • Current Procedural Terminology
  • Humans
  • Radiology / economics*
  • Relative Value Scales*
  • United States
  • Workload