Overuse of Brain Scans for Headaches Persists, Despite Guidelines

Brain scans remain "substantially overused" on patients who visit the doctor complaining of headaches and migraines, despite multiple guidelines recommending against their use. Physicians must be vigilant about having conversations with patients about the risks, neurologists say.

Brain scans remain "substantially overused" on patients who visit the doctor complaining of headaches and migraines, despite multiple guidelines recommending against their use, a new JAMA Internal Medicine study says. Physicians must be vigilant about having conversations with patients about the risks, neurologists say.

Of more than 51 million U.S. patients who visited a primary-care physician, neurologist or other specialist for a headache, just more than 12% received an MRI or CT scan, according to the study which analyzed National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data for all headache visits for patients 18 and older between 2007 and 2010. The data also found that of the more than 25 million who presented with a migraine, nearly 10% had undergone an imaging test. Use of neuroimaging was higher if the headache or migraine diagnosis was listed as the primary reason for the visit. During the four-year period, spending on the tests was estimated at $3.9 billion, according to the study.

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Source: Modern Healthcare