03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Old Imaging Equipment's Effect On The Patient

"All Images (and Imaging) Are Not Created Equal." This is the mantra that my team and I live by. In many of my prior posts I have commented on the role of the radiologist, the importance of training and how these affect the images that are obtained, the diagnosis and the treatment regimen. Another important factor to consider when acquiring medical images is the equipment that is being used.

The equipment that radiologists and radiology technologists use to image body parts is constantly undergoing improvements. New technology is regularly being developed, tested and launched. As equipment improves, the ability to identify and diagnose medical conditions earlier and more definitively, improves. At Hospital for Special Surgery we are continually working with imaging equipment manufacturers to develop and test the latest and greatest hardware and software technologies for Magnetic Resonance (MR), Computerized Tomography (CT), X-rays, Ultrasound (US) and Nuclear Medicine (NM) examinations.

With this in mind, patients should be asking their imaging provider "Is the equipment being used old or new? Is it current and state-of-the-art? Also, when was the equipment last serviced and has your team been trained on how to acquire the best image using the equipment that you have?"

Old imaging equipment, that is used beyond its time and after depreciation, may not produce state-of-the-art images. Despite subpar images, patients and their insurance companies are charged at the current market rate. When the first examination is inadequate and not diagnostic, payment for the repeat study becomes a problem for the patient and for the site where the repeat examination is being performed as they are usually not reimbursed by insurance carriers. Low strength MRI units and old CT and X-ray equipment are often the culprits in this increasing problem. This situation is comparable to the old X-ray units in dentist's offices that many states made obsolete over concerns of too much radiation compared with the newer units.

It never hurts to ask if the equipment being used by your imaging provider is state-of-the-art. And, as mentioned before, if your provider has high image repeat rates, this should raise a red flag and you might want to question them on everything from who is acquiring the image, to the age of the equipment and as to the credentials of the person who will be interpreting the image.