Hospital admissions drop amid skyrocketing CT scan use

While a drop in hospital admissions correlated with a rise in CT scan use, according to a study published last week in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, questions still linger about the safety of such tests. 

The number of tests performed from 1996 to 2007 increased by a whopping 330 percent, according to the study. Overall patient use of CT, meanwhile, rose from 3.2 percent to 13.9 percent. The rate of hospitalization following a CT scan fell from 26 percent in 1996 to 12.1 percent in 2007. Despite the drop in hospital admissions, though, that decline has leveled off since 2000. 

In an editorial accompanying the study, "The Hunting of the Snark, 2011," Dr. Robert Wears of the University of Florida Health Science Center writes that long term, such growth isn't healthy, adding that it could lead to "half the population used in scanning the other half," according to MedPage Today

The data was obtained from analysis of past National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys. Overall, more than 368,000 emergency room (ER) visits at 601 hospitals were examined. Those cases represented roughly 1.3 billion ER visits, MedPage reports.

Another study, published recently in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that such scans aren't as helpful for diagnosing patients as a thorough examination and taking of a patient's medical history.

The study from Israel found that CT scans and ultrasounds given to patients shortly after showing up in ERs only helped in diagnosing such patients about one-third of the time, Reuters reports. 

To learn more:
- here's the Annals study's abstract
- read this press release about the study
- check out this MedPage Today article
- here's a preview of the Archives article
- read this Reuters article