Medical Imaging Study Underscores Need for Value-based Care for Vets


Medical Imaging Helps Veteran Get HomeMedical imaging is not the first thing on your mind when you are a soldier returning from another tour of duty. But medical imaging is just what is in store for many soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the PTSD Foundation of America, one in three returning soldiers are diagnosed with serious PTSD symptoms.

Physicians use computed tomography (CT) scans extensively as rule-out test for vets suspected of suffering PTSD and prior to diagnosis. A CT scan is a medical imaging method that uses x-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body.

Medical Imaging Screenings

All soldiers returning home to U.S. soil are held at base for about 24 hours to make sure they are medically and physically cleared. This is followed by one more week of mandatory reintegration classes and PTSD medical imaging screenings before they are released to return to normal activities at home.

However, there is concern about overexposure to radiation from medical imaging. According to a medical imaging study published in the May issue of Radiology, the presence of PTSD in young veterans increases odds of the utilization of CT medical imaging more than 2.5 times.

Results were based on a retrospective study of a national sample of new veteran enrollees, ages 18 to 35 years. A total of 76,812 were included in the full cohort, and the authors examined associations between presence of PTSD and CT medical imaging, as well as associations with comorbid medical conditions.

Prudent Use of Medical Imaging

“These findings not only highlight the higher utilization of CT scans in patients with PTSD but demonstrate that much of the higher utilization can be attributed to [traumatic brain injury (TBI)], other mental health conditions, pain, and specific types of acute and chronic conditions,” wrote Thad E. Abrams, MD, MS, of the VA Office of Rural Health and colleagues.

They reported that 13 percent of the study population received at least one CT scan. PTSD was identified in 21.1 percent of the cohort, and 22.9 percent of those with PTSD received at least one scan, compared with 10.4 percent of those without PTSD.

“Because of the costs associated with CT scans and other diagnostic imaging, ensuring that such procedures are used prudently provides an opportunity for the [Veterans Health Administration] to deliver more value-based care,” the study stated.

In order for all hospitals to deliver more value-based care, the American College of Radiology (ACR) accreditation program requires that radiation doses be within an acceptable range in order for a facility to be accredited.

What is your health care organization doing to minimize the overuse of medical imaging whether treating a returning veteran or any other patient?

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