Many studies have demonstrated a rise in computed tomography (CT) utilization in children’s hospitals. However, CT utilization may be declining, perhaps due to awareness of potential hazards of pediatric ionizing radiation, such as increased risk of malignancy. The objective is to assess the trend in CT utilization in hospitalized children at freestanding children’s hospitals from 2004 to 2012 and we hypothesize decreases are associated with shifts to alternate imaging modalities.
Multicenter cross-sectional study of children admitted to 33 pediatric tertiary-care hospitals participating in the Pediatric Health Information System between January 1, 2004, and December 31, 2012. The rates of CT, ultrasound, and MRI for the top 10 All-Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups (APR-DRGs) for which CT was performed in 2004 were determined by billing data. Rates of each imaging modality for those top 10 APR-DRGs were followed through the study period. Odds ratios of imaging were adjusted for demographics and illness severity.
For all included APR-DRGs except ventricular shunt procedures and nonbacterial gastroenteritis, the number of children imaged with any modality increased. CT utilization decreased for all APR-DRGs (P values < .001). For each of the APR-DRGs except seizure and infections of upper respiratory tract, the decrease in CT was associated with a significant rise in an alternative imaging modality (P values ≤ .005).
For the 10 most common APR-DRGs for which children received CT in 2004, a decrease in CT utilization was found in 2012. Alternative imaging modalities for 8 of the diagnoses were used.