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Too Many Patients Know Too Little About Their MRI, CT Scans: Study

TUESDAY, Feb. 13, 2018 -- Before they go in for an X-ray, CT scan or MRI, patients may have questions about their screening. But new research finds at least one in every five people saying they received no information about their procedures beforehand.

"This is an important finding in today's health care system, where we want more patient engagement and involvement," said lead author Dr. Jay Pahade, an associate professor of radiology at Yale School of Medicine.

In the study, typical patient questions around imaging scans included: How do I prepare for the scan?; Does it use radiation, and how much?; and Is this scan really needed?

For the study, researchers surveyed more than 1,400 patients and caregivers at three pediatric and three adult hospitals across the United States. The participants were asked if they had received imaging exam information before the procedure, and what type of information would be most helpful.

Less than 80 percent of patients said they received information about their imaging exam beforehand, according to the study.

"This means one in five people are showing up for the exam without any information about the test they are getting," Pahade said.

He noted that patients who feel they have little idea about what their scan involves also experience higher levels of anxiety around the screening.

The study showed that "patients value basic information related to the test [itself] more than information related to the radiation dose, so we should probably shift our focus to providing that," Pahade said.

"In the radiology realm, we need to take more ownership over the entire imaging process," Pahade explained in a news release from the Radiological Society of North America. "One big gap has been in the pre-imaging part of that process, and the data show we have work to do in closing that gap."

Half of the respondents reported seeking information themselves, often on the internet, the researchers said. To help this group of patients, "we need to increase visibility of sites that provide some of this information," Pahade suggested.

The findings were published online Feb. 13 in the journal Radiology.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on medical imaging.

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Posted: February 2018