MRIs lead to more back surgery!

MRI-Increase Surgery

How many magnets do you have in your city?  I will let you in on a little secret, the MRI is not a “therapeutic magnet.”

In their new study, published online on Oct. 14 in Health Affairs, Baker and first author Jacqueline Baras correlate areas with high numbers of MRI machines to an increased likelihood that MRIs will be performed on new low-back pain patients. In turn, high local MRI availability correlates with increased rates of low-back surgery.

"It is important that policymakers recognize that infrastructure matters, and that the number of MRI machines in any particular area may affect the volume and quality of health care that patients receive," said Baras, a Stanford medical student with a master’s degree in health services research.

Researchers projected that in 2004 there would have been 5.4 percent fewer low-back MRIs and 9 percent fewer back surgeries if all Medicare patients reporting new-onset low-back pain had been living in the areas of lowest MRI availability.



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