A new study published in the April issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR) indicates that patients whoundergo CTs and MRI scans may in fact reduce overall hospitalization costs through reducing hospitalization time.

The study was performed at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and looked at over 10000 hospital admissions that included at least one advanced imaging exam.

Lead author of the study, Juan Carlos Batlle, MD, MBA, explained in a JACR press release, “Inpatient costs represent 18 percent of total health care insurance premiums paid, and they continue to grow approximately 8 percent annually.”

The mean length of stay for abdominal CT exams performed before or day of admission was 8.4 days vs. 9.7 days when performed a day or two after admission. For neurologic MRI exams, the patient’s length of stay was 7.6 if imaged the day before admission vs. 8.7 days when imaged after admission.

“Results showed that in comparison the length of stay was significantly shorter for those imaged on the day before or day of admission vs. day one or two for all admissions of at least three days,” said Batlle.

The study estimated that the average cost of a hospital stay is $2,129 per day. Consequently, if patient stays could be reduced by an average of one day through earlier advanced imaging, hospitals (and insurers) could see a reduction of $2,129 per admission in savings.

Battle concludes that early imaging with CT and MRI, particularly on the day before or the day of admission is associated with significantly shorter length of stay of inpatients compared with patients who had advanced imaging performed later. However, he also noted that the study does not establish a direct cause and effect from early advanced imaging testing.

“Our results suggest that early imaging could expedite inpatient care and discharge in certain types of patients, but they do not imply that automatic ordering of imaging should replace clinical judgment,” said Batlle in the release.

 For more information about JACR, please visit www.jacr.org.