Patient motion during MRI is $115,000 problem

Patient motion during MRI is costing healthcare providers an estimated $115,000 per scanner per year, according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

The study, conducted by Jalal B. Andre, MD, and colleagues, also looked at effects of patient motion that go beyond its financial impact.

“Patient motion represents a formidable challenge that affects much of the global MR community, resulting in throughput delays, inefficiencies in use of hospital resources and potentially suboptimal radiologic interpretations,” Jalal B. Andre, MD, and colleagues wrote.

To determine the prevalence of motion artifacts (such as ring artifacts and image blurring), the authors looked at a week’s worth of MRI data from April 2014. All exams were performed in the same hospital, on one of three scanners.

A total of 192 exams and 1,238 sequences were studied. 727 sequences contained at least minimal motion artifacts, and 203 sequences contained moderate or severe motion artifacts. MRI scans that examine the brain were the most common culprits; 56.7% of the exams displaying moderate or severe motion artifacts were of that variety.

The data also showed that there were 68 repeated sequences, affecting just under 20% of all patients. The authors explain that technologists often redo sequences due to detected motion, because it can substantially affect the quality and accuracy of the exam. However, this has negative side effects of its own.

“Correcting for motion artifacts can extend the time (and possibly increase patient discomfort) associated with an MR examination, which affects patient and provider time, hospital cost and other resources associated with imaging,” Andre et al wrote.

Those 68 repeated sequences took more four hours—278.5 minutes, to be exact – and the authors say that alone could add up to costing over $140,000 per year.  

The authors noted that a longer study that looked at more scanners would be helpful, but they were still able to conclude that patient motion is a serious issue that could be addressed in a variety of ways.

“Investing in research and software packages that correct for motion in MR examinations is advantageous for institutions, since they would likely lessen patient and provider burden and positively enhance workflow and throughput,” they wrote. “In addition, efforts should be made to further reduce sequence acquisition time.”