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Radiation tests are questioned


5 Star

Radiation tests are questioned

Our Review Summary

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine describes the frequency of utilization of imaging tests in the United States and the associated radiation exposure. Researchers found that a staggering nearly 70% of adults in the study population got an imaging test over the two years of the study. These results highlight the potential harms of such a high use of imaging, which is not limited to radiation exposure, but also includes the potential for diagnosing conditions which would never go on to cause a problem, leading to unnecessary treatments, not to mention stress and anxiety.

This story adequately describes the current study and its implications in terms of radiation exposure. But it also focuses primarily on the economic implication of such high utilization. Given the current debate on healthcare reform, this awareness is important, however it is peripheral to the study under discussion. The study was really focused on quantifying how much imaging tests expose us to radiation, not on the high costs of these tests and the market forces behind the high utilization. Regardless, this story does remind us that as consumers we need to be aware of these market forces and confident that when tests are ordered, we are aware of the implications for own health, both good and bad.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Applicable

It would not be neccessary for the story to describe the costs of individual radiology tests since they are so varied. But the story does a good job of describing the overall toll of imaging costs and raises important points about the perverse financial incentives in the US healthcare economy which favors the ordering of more and more tests.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story suggests in an early quote from one of the study authors that the newer tests are "…extremely helpful…" but then notes that there is insufficient information to determine which tests are valuable and which ones are not.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?


The story does a good job of describing the possible harms of imaging, including radiation exposure, overdiagnosis and pyschological distress.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides an adequate overview of the study under consideration.  However much of the story is about the costs and potential overutilization of diagnostic testing.  While appealing and timely, the story does not provide adequate evidence to support many of the comments related to these issues.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story pursues a theme that the tests are doing more harm than good – quite in contrast to a disease-mongering frame that might suggest that all imaging is necessary.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


Clearly the alternative is no testing, particularly in the context of management of chronic diseases. The story could have described how traditional hands-on examinations and history-taking are alternatives to testing.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


Clearly radiology tests are widely available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


Clearly imaging is not a new idea, but it is being used on an increasingly larger scale.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Because the story quotes multiple sources, the reader can assume that the story does not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 8 of 9 Satisfactory


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