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Head CT scan in emergency room: Is it still abused? Quantification and causes analysis of overprescription in an Italian Emergency Department

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In recent years, the increasing prescription of diagnostic imaging has been noted, due to advances in imaging technology and the development of defensive medicine. Overuse of diagnostic imaging significantly impacts the quality and costs of health care. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to quantify overprescription and investigate its causes through the evaluation of head computer tomography (CT) scan prescriptions. In this study, a set of 100 requests of CT scans was collected and analysed by three experts in guidelines and scientific evidences, evaluating prescription appropriateness. Then, the rate of overprescription was quantified and its causes identified as incorrect adoption of guidelines indications (32%) and as defensive medicine (6%). Therefore, in order to reduce inappropriate investigations, the findings of the present study suggest that the reduction in overprescription could be reached through the improvement of training of health personnel and the propagation of a no-blame culture aimed at minimizing defensive medicine.

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We would like to acknowledge Flavio Mele (University of Lecce) and Francesco Emanuele Celentano (PhD, Department of Law, University of Bari) for the English translation and revisions.


The authors do not receive any fund (financial or non-financial) for this study.

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Correspondence to Davide Ferorelli.

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Ferorelli, D., Donno, F., De Giorgio, G. et al. Head CT scan in emergency room: Is it still abused? Quantification and causes analysis of overprescription in an Italian Emergency Department. Radiol med (2020).

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  • Clinical risk management
  • Inappropriate investigations
  • CT overprescription
  • Defensive medicine
  • Guidelines indication