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Trends in Use of Medical Imaging in US Health Care Systems and in Ontario, Canada, 2000-2016.

  • Smith-Bindman, Rebecca1
  • Kwan, Marilyn L2
  • Marlow, Emily C3, 4
  • Theis, Mary Kay5
  • Bolch, Wesley6
  • Cheng, Stephanie Y7
  • Bowles, Erin J A5
  • Duncan, James R8
  • Greenlee, Robert T9
  • Kushi, Lawrence H2
  • Pole, Jason D7, 10
  • Rahm, Alanna K11
  • Stout, Natasha K12
  • Weinmann, Sheila13
  • Miglioretti, Diana L3, 5
  • 1 Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco.
  • 2 Division of Research, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, Oakland.
  • 3 Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California, Davis.
  • 4 Graduate Group in Epidemiology, University of California, Davis.
  • 5 Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle.
  • 6 J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Florida, Gainesville.
  • 7 ICES, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 8 Interventional Radiology Section, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri.
  • 9 Marshfield Clinic Research Institute, Marshfield, Wisconsin.
  • 10 Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario and Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 11 Center for Health Research, Genomic Medical Institute, Geisinger, Danville, Pennsylvania.
  • 12 Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • 13 Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon.
Published Article
American Medical Association
Publication Date
Sep 03, 2019
DOI: 10.1001/jama.2019.11456
PMID: 31479136


Medical imaging increased rapidly from 2000 to 2006, but trends in recent years have not been analyzed. To evaluate recent trends in medical imaging. Retrospective cohort study of patterns of medical imaging between 2000 and 2016 among 16 million to 21 million patients enrolled annually in 7 US integrated and mixed-model insurance health care systems and for individuals receiving care in Ontario, Canada. Calendar year and country (United States vs Canada). Use of computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and nuclear medicine imaging. Annual and relative imaging rates by imaging modality, country, and age (children [<18 years], adults [18-64 years], and older adults [≥65 years]). Overall, 135 774 532 imaging examinations were included; 5 439 874 (4%) in children, 89 635 312 (66%) in adults, and 40 699 346 (30%) in older adults. Among adults and older adults, imaging rates were significantly higher in 2016 vs 2000 for all imaging modalities other than nuclear medicine. For example, among older adults, CT imaging rates were 428 per 1000 person-years in 2016 vs 204 per 1000 in 2000 in US health care systems and 409 per 1000 vs 161 per 1000 in Ontario; for MRI, 139 per 1000 vs 62 per 1000 in the United States and 89 per 1000 vs 13 per 1000 in Ontario; and for ultrasound, 495 per 1000 vs 324 per 1000 in the United States and 580 per 1000 vs 332 per 1000 in Ontario. Annual growth in imaging rates among US adults and older adults slowed over time for CT (from an 11.6% annual percentage increase among adults and 9.5% among older adults in 2000-2006 to 3.7% among adults in 2013-2016 and 5.2% among older adults in 2014-2016) and for MRI (from 11.4% in 2000-2004 in adults and 11.3% in 2000-2005 in older adults to 1.3% in 2007-2016 in adults and 2.2% in 2005-2016 in older adults). Patterns in Ontario were similar. Among children, annual growth for CT stabilized or declined (United States: from 10.1% in 2000-2005 to 0.8% in 2013-2016; Ontario: from 3.3% in 2000-2006 to -5.3% in 2006-2016), but patterns for MRI were similar to adults. Changes in annual growth in ultrasound were smaller among adults and children in the United States and Ontario compared with CT and MRI. Nuclear medicine imaging declined in adults and children after 2006. From 2000 to 2016 in 7 US integrated and mixed-model health care systems and in Ontario, rates of CT and MRI use continued to increase among adults, but at a slower pace in more recent years. In children, imaging rates continued to increase except for CT, which stabilized or declined in more recent periods. Whether the observed imaging utilization was appropriate or was associated with improved patient outcomes is unknown.

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