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Energy Team Thinks CT, MRI ‘Interchangeable’

February 21, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging, Practice Management
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Is a patient scheduled for an MRI? Why not save energy and switch to a CT scan instead?

Um, well, perhaps the Wichita State University engineering researchers who have been looking into ways that hospitals can save money on energy might need to educate themselves a bit more about imaging. A Wichita State news release about the energy-efficiency endeavor suggests that “for some patient conditions, the same diagnosis can be made with interchangeable, lower-energy tests, such as a CT scan instead of an MRI, which reduces hospital energy use.”

A CT scan and an MRI are “interchangeable”? The image gently folks and others who are concerned about radiation exposure from medical imaging might disagree with that characterization.

imagingBiz, in a masterpiece of understatement, said the suggestion “creeps delicately into the clinical decision-making realm” and challenged Michael Overcash, PhD, one of the lead researchers, about it. Dr. Overcash responded:

We use the American College of Radiology ranking system of imaging equipment for each patient condition they list. Only if two machines are rated as the best do we say there is a choice available. In actuality, the imaging community must identify where they believe there are alternatives, and then our research can help them seek the one with a better environmental impact.

Dr. Overcash was quoted by imagingBiz on Wednesday. He and Janet Twomey, PhD, both professors of industrial and manufacturing engineering, led the energy-efficiency team. They worked with the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center, the Wesley Medical Center, and Cypress Women’s Imaging, all of Wichita, Kansas.

We certainly agree that it’s a good idea to examine possible ways to reduce energy use. And smart, highly educated academics are a valuable resource for such an examination. But the Wichita State news release says the team worked with the Wichita hospitals and clinic “to help their radiology departments understand how energy is used for CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds.”

The researchers might also have taken a little more time to understand how CT scans, MRIs, X-rays, and ultrasounds are used to help patients.

Related seminar: ALARA – CT (As Low As Reasonably Achievable)

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