Study: Docs order redundant tests for stroke patients

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Duplicative testing?: According to research by the University of Michigan, 95 percent of stroke patients who received magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also had a computed tomography (CT) scan. | FILE PHOTO

Neuroimaging for stroke patients may be unnecessarily costly and redundant, contributing to rising costs nationwide for stroke care, according to University of Michigan research.

The research, published in the Annals of Neurology, found that 95 percent of stroke patients who received magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also had a computed tomography (CT) scan.

“Compared to CT, MRI is a more accurate test for stroke,” said James F. Burke, M.D., lead author of the study and a clinical lecturer in the University of Michigan Medical School’s Department of Neurology. “But our results showed that MRI is not replacing CT as the primary

stroke neuroimaging study — instead, patients are getting both.

“Minimizing the use of multiple studies could be a viable strategy to reduce costs.”

The costs of inpatient stroke care have climbed by 42 percent between 1997 and 2007, an increase of $3,800 per case, Burke and his University of Michigan found. Neuroimaging — MRIs and CTs — were the largest driver of costs.

Diagnostic imaging has been the fastest growing component of total hospital costs, increasing 213 percent from 1999 to 2007.

“The data shows that neuroimaging practices in stroke are neither standardized or efficient,” Burke said. “This represents an area where we have an opportunity to substantially reduce the cost of care without adversely effecting the quality of care.”