Physician viewpoint: Why providers need to stop unneeded MRIs, CT scans

It's time for providers to stop unnecessary and wasted diagnostic imaging, physicians from Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic and Stanford (Calif.) University wrote in a JAMA op-ed cited by The Washington Post.

"There is virtually no evidence that screening of this kind improves overall population health," wrote Ohad Oren, MD, Electron Kebebew, MD, and John P.A. Ioannidis, MD.

However, the authors said it will take significant effort to stop Americans from using medical imaging as often as they do.

With medical imaging, more may not mean better, they said. Imaging can expose patients to radiation, and some patients may have side effects from the contrast material injected into their bodies before some scans.

Unneeded imaging also may uncover abnormalities unrelated to the reason the test is being done, the physicians said. These findings can serve as red herrings, leading to diagnoses that are not useful and treatments that fail to work.

The authors call for research on how to reduce imaging, such as using image sensitivity settings focused only on the systems being tested or prohibiting certain studies for certain symptoms that don't need a certain type of imaging.

"While information can be useful, too much information can create numerous problems," the physicians wrote.

Since imaging is used so often, many patients want as much information as possible, even when it may not uncover useful information about their conditions, they said. It may be challenging to break that habit, but the savings in medical costs, unneeded treatment and stress will be worth it, the physicians said. 

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