Recent news reports have brought attention to the possibility that medical healthcare providers in the U.S. tend to over use medical scans and imaging. Despite concerns over associated medical costs and radiation exposure, there is real value to getting the right scan at the right time. Some medical scans, such as MRI, do not use any radiation and can detect and diagnose diseases and other health issues before they become severe or life-threatening.
The Value of Medical Scans
Medical imaging can play a critical role in detecting diseases at the earliest stages, when medical intervention is often easier, less invasive and more effective. In fact, many medical experts believe that medical imaging has advanced the delivery of health care by improving outcomes, reducing costs and helping patients avoid lengthy or complicated medical treatments. The New England Journal of Medicine recognized medical imaging as a technological development that has “changed the face of clinical medicine.”
What is an MRI and how does it work? MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging, and uses radio wave pulses and a magnetic field to make images of structures and organs inside your body. The images from MRI can show things that other scans may not pick up, and often provide very different information than the images produced by traditional x-rays or CT scans. For MRI scans, patients are asked to sit or lie down on a medical table that is inside a large imaging machine.
MRI Scans in the News
Singer Sheryl Crow recently benefitted from MRI imaging, which detected a brain tumor at an early stage of development. Through the information provided the MRI scan, Ms. Crow’s doctors were able to investigate further and determine that the tumor is benign and at a stage and location that does not require treatment. Her doctors will be able to use MRI scans to continue monitoring her condition to determine when and if treatment is warranted. Without the use of imaging to safely track a tumor’s progress, its growth can begin to affect delicate nerves and tissue, causing health problems and making treatment difficult.
Medical scans essentially allow physicians to look inside the body. Prior to the advancement of medical imaging technology, doctors had to rely on exploratory surgery to find tumors and other anomalies in our bodies. Physicians now rely more on medical scans to make medical diagnoses and decisions and determine the optimal medical treatments for their patients. When patients can get access to appropriate scans in a timely manner, their health outcomes are better, the need for hospital stays or surgery can be reduced or eliminated, and overall medical costs are lower.