The latest research shows that if you are paying for an MRI for your family medical care, it is probably not the most reliable way to see how it is performing.
“There are better ways of getting your MRI,” Dr David DeBruyn, president of the American Society of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, told the Australian Financial Press.
“It is not something you should be paying for just to look at the image.”
The research, conducted by the University of Adelaide and the University’s Health Systems Research Centre, was published in the journal Clinical Imaging Research.
The study looked at patients with a variety of conditions, including diabetes, asthma, coronary artery disease and depression.
There were a total of 3,857 patients.
“The average cost for an imaging study was about $1,800.
The average cost of a follow-up MRI was about half that,” Dr DeBucys team found.
The findings were consistent with other studies.
“We have seen a lot of improvements in the cost of imaging since the advent of high-density imaging, but the cost per MRI has not improved as dramatically,” Dr James Sarnoff, director of research and innovation at the University, told ABC Radio.
“You don’t need to spend more than a few thousand dollars to do an MRI.”
It was not just about the cost, either.
The researchers found that if the MRI was performed at a local hospital and the patient had a serious medical condition, there was a greater risk of a false positive.
“If there was an issue with the MRI, that is when you might have a false negative, or even a false false positive,” Dr Sarnoffs said.
“And if you’re a patient with a major medical condition and you’re getting MRI results that you would have expected to be positive, it might be worth the risk.”
It is possible that some patients might need to see a doctor more often, especially if they have chronic conditions.
“This is a problem with the way that the MRI is performed,” Dr Raul Torres, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, told local media.
“Some people are just not very good at doing MRI.”
While many MRI scanners are better at scanning a person’s brain, it could be the case that a patient might not have an accurate MRI scan.
The MRI scanner that is used is usually more sensitive than a conventional MRI machine, Dr Sernoffs said, and he suggested that the results could be misleading.
“For example, you could have a patient who is sitting in a chair and you see an image of their forehead.
That could be a false-positive.”
Dr De Bruyn said there were a few options for reducing the risk.
“People with the worst health conditions are likely to have a scan that’s much worse than the average MRI,” he said.
A scanner that only uses a low-energy laser and a power meter could help.
“A laser scanner has the ability to be able to do some very low-power scanning,” Dr Brugioni said.
The cost of an MRI scanner is often set by the patient.
“I think we’re probably at about $150 for a general MRI,” said Dr De Bucys.
“That’s not something that I’m going to spend a lot on, but I think it’s reasonable to expect a little bit of an improvement in that cost.”
Dr Torres suggested that there could be some other ways to reduce the risk of false positives.
“Sometimes people have to be told they’re going to be a negative for an ultrasound because they have a heart condition or something like that, so they’re not going to get the right MRI,” Mr Torres said.
However, Dr Brents suggestion that a scanner that uses a laser might not be the best option.
“But the thing about a scanner is that it doesn’t really do the job it’s supposed to do, so it’s not a good idea,” Dr Torres said, “to put it in the wrong position.”
While there was no clear way to know how many people were having a false scan, Dr Torres told the ABC that he expected the average number of false-positives to be higher than the number of positive scans.
“When you have multiple MRI scanners, there’s a potential for some very serious problems,” Dr de Bruyn added.
He also said that the cost could be higher for a family than for an individual.
“So you have to consider that this is a real problem, that it’s really expensive, and you have a huge cost,” Dr Evans said.
If you have any questions about the health of your family or healthcare, please get in touch with the ABC’s Healthline Helpline.
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