Objective: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) compared with radionuclide bone scan in the evaluation of patients with clinically suspected hip fractures.
Design: The medical records of all patients who had been seen in the emergency room over a 4 1/2 year period with a clinically suspected hip fracture, negative or equivocal plain films, and either a subsequent bone scan or MRI examination were retrospectively reviewed. The time to diagnosis, admission rate, and time to surgery were determined. A two-sample t-test was used to assess the statistical significance of the results. A theoretical cost analysis was performed using current charges to estimate all expenses.
Patients: Forty patients (11 male, 29 female; age 28-99 years) satisfied our inclusion criteria.
Results and conclusions: Twenty-one patients had bone scans (six with fractures), and 19 had MRI (four with fractures). The time to diagnosis was 2.24 +/- 1.30 days for bone scanning and 0.368 +/- 0.597 days for MRI (P < 0.0001). Twenty patients in the bone scan group were admitted compared with 13 in the MRI group. The time to surgery was at least 1 day longer in patients undergoing bone scanning. Bone scanning resulted in higher patient costs compared with MRI because of the delay in diagnosis. In the evaluation of patients with suspected hip fractures, early MRI is more cost-effective than delayed bone scanning. Further prospective studies comparing the cost-effectiveness of early MRI with early bone scanning are needed.