For a variety of reasons, healthcare providers have gravitated toward more expensive imaging modalities over time. The use of such imaging modalities as CT and MRI, instead of lower-cost alternatives, such as ultrasound, may not ensure better outcomes, and also increases the cost to the healthcare system and your patients.
In 2009 alone, CT’s and MRI’s accounted for 95% of Medicare-allowed charges for all extremity imaging. Only 5% was for ultrasound, which is highly cost-effective and avoids the inherent risk of radiation exposure. Using a lower cost and safer approach to imaging, would make clinical sense for many conditions without compromising care. An article by Parker et al., published in 2008, indicates that the substitution of MSK ultrasound for MSK MRI, when appropriate, would lead to savings for Medicare of more than $6.9 billion in the period from 2006 to 2020.