The Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance (MITA) issued the following statement today in response to a study (Smith-Bindman et al) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examining trends in imaging utilization and associated radiation exposure among members of integrated health care systems which finds usage of diagnostic CT and other advanced imaging modalities has declined in the last few years.

"The data gathered by Dr. Smith-Bindman and colleagues suggest that usage of advanced imaging modalities such as computed tomography (CT) is now declining, a fact which has been corroborated by several recent independent analyses of Medicare and private insurance data, including by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC). As a result of this trend, patients are actually receiving fewer imaging procedures, which further debunks the myth that life-saving diagnostic imaging services are growing and contributing to rising health care costs.

"In spite of a demonstrated downward trend in utilization, the value of advanced medical imaging to patients and physicians is clear. A multi-society collaborative study published in JAMA last month showed that low-dose computerized tomography (LDCT) screening may benefit individuals at increased risk for lung cancer. The study reaffirms the results of the National Lung Screening Trial (NLST) which proved that low-dose CT screening could reduce lung cancer deaths by at least 20 percent in a high risk population of current and former smokers ages 55 to 74. Additionally, CT-based lung cancer screening was named one of the top five advances in the fight against cancer by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in 2011.

"In the 1990s and early 2000s, manufacturers introduced innovative technologies that enabled physicians to diagnose, monitor and treat cancers and other diseases more safely, quickly and efficiently using scans than by conducting invasive surgeries or admitting patients to the hospital without reason. Today, MITA members continue to forge ahead with new breakthrough products, system innovations and patient care initiatives that optimize radiation dose for many procedures while providing cutting-edge medical care that saves lives and reduces long-term costs.

"In addition to these initiatives, MITA collaborates with the larger imaging community on initiatives like the 'Image Wisely', 'Image Gently' and 'Choosing Wisely' campaigns, which focus on reducing unnecessary radiation exposure for adults and children, as well as educating patients and caregivers about benefits and risks of diagnostics and therapies. MITA also champions the radiation dose management and optimization ALARA principle, or "as low as reasonably achievable," into all imaging procedures and technologies. MITA has also been a staunch supporter of accreditation of imaging facilities and standardized reporting of medical errors associated with imaging and radiation therapy equipment.

"Medical imaging is undoubtedly integral to established medical guidelines and best practices, and its use reduces hospital stays and helps patients return to their families, lives and work more quickly. But the reality is that all medical procedures carry some degree of potential risk. As the study authors rightly note, it is essential that all patients and their physicians weigh the relative risks and benefits when considering any procedure.

"The proof ultimately lies in the data: utilization is on the decline as a result of many factors. Imaging and radiation therapy manufacturers will continue to lead efforts to develop innovative technologies that reduce radiation dose and safeguard against human error, while ensuring that all patients have access to the lifesaving technologies that are critical to providing the very best and safest health care in the world."