Skeletal Radiology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 272–276 | Cite as

Trends in utilization: has extremity MR imaging replaced diagnostic arthroscopy?

  • Nicole Glynn
  • William B. MorrisonEmail author
  • Laurence Parker
  • Mark E. Schweitzer
  • John A. Carrino



To examine the relative change in utilization of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the extremities versus diagnostic and therapeutic arthroscopy.

Design and patients

Using the 1993, 1996, and 1999 nationwide Medicare Part B databases, utilization rates (per 100,000) were determined for upper and lower extremity MR imaging, diagnostic arthroscopy and therapeutic arthroscopy using CPT-4 codes. Utilization of extremity MR imaging was compared with that of diagnostic and therapeutic arthroscopy in 10 geographic regions of the United States and tracked over time.


Combined lower and upper extremity MR imaging utilization per 100,000 increased from 393 to 1,056 in 1999 (+168.7%). Utilization of diagnostic arthroscopy of the extremities decreased from 18 in 1993 to 8 in 1999 (−55.6%); therapeutic arthroscopy rates increased from 461 in 1993 to 636 in 1999 (+40.0%). Specifically, from 1993 to 1999, utilization of lower extremity MR imaging increased from 270 to 661 (+144.8%). Utilization of diagnostic arthroscopy of the knee over the same time period decreased from 11 to 5 (−54.5%); therapeutic arthroscopy increased from 394 to 501 (+27.2%). Similarly, utilization rates for upper extremity MR imaging increased from 123 to 395 (+221.1%). Utilization of diagnostic arthroscopy of the shoulder over the same time period decreased from 7 to 2 (−71.4%); therapeutic arthroscopy increased from 44 to 104 (+136.4%). No specific geographic trends were ascertained.


The utilization of MR imaging of the extremities has markedly increased from 1993 to 1999. During the same time period the utilization of diagnostic arthroscopy has decreased and that of therapeutic arthroscopy has increased. These findings support the hypothesis that there is increased reliance of clinical practitioners on the diagnostic information provided by MR imaging in preoperative clinical decision-making.


Arthroscopy Extremities, MR Joints, MR Joints, surgery Magnetic resonance (MR), utilization 



We would like to acknowledge Jonathan H. Sunshine, Ph.D., the Senior Director of Research at the American College of Radiology in Reston, VA for providing a copy of the Medicare database.


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Copyright information

© ISS 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicole Glynn
    • 1
  • William B. Morrison
    • 1
    Email author
  • Laurence Parker
    • 1
  • Mark E. Schweitzer
    • 2
  • John A. Carrino
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of RadiologyThomas Jefferson University HospitalPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of RadiologyNew York University Hospital for Joint DiseaseNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of RadiologyBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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