Intestinal obstruction: trends in imaging utilization and their influence in its rising hospital bill

Otero H. J., ERTÜRK Ş. M., Ochoa R. E., Ondategui-Parra S., Rybicki F. J., Ros P. R.

EMERGENCY RADIOLOGY, vol.15, no.5, pp.317-323, 2008 (ESCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 15 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s10140-008-0726-1
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.317-323
  • Keywords: Intestinal obstruction, Imaging utilization, Computed tomography, Abdominal radiographs, Imaging charges, Hospital charges
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


The purpose of the study was to evaluate trends in the utilization of different imaging modalities and review how imaging utilization practices affect hospital charges for patients with intestinal obstruction. All patients discharged with a primary diagnosis of intestinal obstruction during 6 fiscal years (1999-2004) were retrospectively studied. We obtained data on patients' demographics, procedures, outcomes, imaging services utilization, and hospital and imaging charges from our institution's transition system (a clinical and financial decision support software system). The institutional review board approved this study. Surgery was performed in 26% of patients in 1999 and in 40% in 2004 (p = 0.01) with the mortality rate significantly (p < 0.01) dropping from 3.8% to 0.4%. A total of 5,292 abdominal imaging studies were obtained; 93% of those were either abdominal radiographs or abdomino-pelvic computed tomography (CT) scans. CT studies per patient increased from 0.5 in 1999 to 1 in 2004 (p < 0.01), while abdominal radiographs (mean = 2.4) did not significantly change over the entire study period (p = 0.6). Average imaging charges doubled during the study period ($1,572 to $3,012, p < 0.01). Average hospital charges increased from $18,138 in 1999 to $32,808 in 2004 (p < 0.01). The fraction of hospital charges attributed to imaging varied between 8.7% and 9.2%. CT utilization for intestinal obstruction increased from 1999 to 2004 without modality substitution. While hospital and imaging charges have significantly increased, the fraction represented by imaging has remained constant, suggesting that imaging is an unlikely cause for the increase in hospital charges.