Nonradiologists increasingly perform ultrasound-guided procedures

While the number of ultrasound-guided procedures increased by almost 100 percent between 2004 and 2010, these procedures weren't necessarily performed by radiologists, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

"We saw they are using them with high frequency and we wanted to encourage further research to understand if these additional processes are adding value to healthcare systems and if patients are having better outcomes," lead author Richard Sharpe, a radiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, said in an article in DOTmed News.

The total utilization rate for all ultrasound-guided procedures was 2,425 per 100,000 in 2004, and 4,870 in 2010--an increase of 100.8 percent. The study found that in 2010, nonradiologists as a group, for the first time, performed more of these procedures (922,672) than radiologists (794,497).

The researchers also discovered that nonradiologists accounted for more than 72 percent of the volume growth of ultrasound-guided procedures during the period studied.

Some of the increase in ultrasound-guided procedures could be due to the fact it is being added to certain procedures, such as tissue biopsies and steroid injections, according to the authors. But it also could be due to an increase in nonradiologist ownership of these devices, they said.

"More research is needed to discern whether increases in utilization of ultrasound-guided procedures are the result of increased adoption of U.S. guidance for procedures that would have been previously performed without U.S. guidance or whether the increased utilization reflects a lower threshold among nonradiologists for performing these procedures because they had acquired U.S. capabilities," the authors wrote. "The latter could raise concern for self-referral, depending on the clinical appropriateness of these procedures."

To learn more:
- see the study in the Journal of the American College of Radiology
- read the article in DOTmed News