Ethics in Medicine

High Resolution CT scans lead to higher costs

Kristen Sparrow • November 16, 2011

I became aware of these high resolution CT scans at Dr. Rita Redberg’s talk last year at a UCSF conference called eontroversies in Women’s Health” and wrote about it here. This article refers to a new paper released today in JAMA questioning the benefits of all the additional tests, as well as the costs. First do no harm except when there’s money to be made…

High-resolution CT scans having costly follow-ups

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Patients who had high-resolution CT scans to check for heart disease ended up having far more invasive tests and follow-up procedures for a cost of $4,000 more per patient than those who underwent basic stress tests, according a study by Stanford researchers.

What the study, published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association, didn’t determine was whether those extra tests and surgeries translated into healthier outcomes.

CT angiography uses high-resolution computed tomography technology to take pictures of the heart to help doctors see blockages. Researchers questioned whether the high-quality images might reduce the need for additional tests, particularly when they ruled out disease.

“We show pretty clearly, especially in the Medicare population, it actually leads to more testing,” said Dr. Mark Hlatky, senior author of the study and professor of medicine and health research and policy at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “What we don’t know is out of all those extra procedures and all extra angioplasties and all those surgeries, did they do good for the patients?”


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