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J Fam Pract. 1993 Mar;36(3):281-5.

Magnetic resonance imaging use by primary care physicians.

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  • 1Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester 01655.



Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has recently been introduced in the United States as an imaging technique for clinical use. Initially used by neurologists to view the brain stem, its indications have rapidly expanded to include spine, pelvis, bone marrow, and joints. This has raised concerns over the appropriate, cost-effective use of such an expensive technology. This paper examines MRI scanning patterns that have developed over time in central Massachusetts and surveys primary care knowledge, attitudes, and patterns of utilization.


The two MRI centers in central Massachusetts were surveyed for information about the number and types of scans ordered and the specialties of the physicians who ordered the scans. Questionnaires were sent to primary care physicians in Worcester County to assess knowledge and attitudes about MRI and utilization.


The data demonstrate changing patterns of MRI utilization over time. Orthopedics has been the specialty with the greatest increase in use, now slightly surpassing neurology in the total number of scans ordered. Primary care physician use has doubled over this same period. Not all primary care physicians utilize MRI, but those who have used the technology have familiarized themselves with its indications and problems and have a better knowledge about its costs.


Utilization patterns of MRI have changed considerably in a short time, with primary care physicians requesting use of this new technology much more frequently than when it was first introduced.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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