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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

What causes increasing and unnecessary use of radiological investigations? a survey of radiologists' perceptions

Kristin B Lysdahl12* and Bjørn M Hofmann23

Author Affiliations

1 Faculty of Health Sciences, Oslo University College, Oslo, Norway

2 Section for Medical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

3 Faculty of Health Care and Nursing, Gjøvik University College, Gjøvik, Norway

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:155  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-155

Published: 1 September 2009



Growth in use and overuse of diagnostic imaging significantly impacts the quality and costs of health care services. What are the modifiable factors for increasing and unnecessary use of radiological services? Various factors have been indentified, but little is known about their relative impact. Radiologists hold key positions for providing such knowledge. Therefore the purpose of this study was to obtain radiologists' perspective on the causes of increasing and unnecessary use of radiological investigations.


In a mailed questionnaire radiologist members of the Norwegian Medical Association were asked to rate potential causes of increased investigation volume (fifteen items) and unnecessary investigations (six items), using five-point-scales. Responses were analysed by using summary statistics and Factor Analysis. Associations between variables were determined using Students' t-test, Spearman rank correlation and Chi-Square tests.


The response rate was 70% (374/537). The highest rated causes of increasing use of radiological investigations were: a) new radiological technology, b) peoples' demands, c) clinicians' intolerance for uncertainty, d) expanded clinical indications, and e) availability. 'Over-investigation' and 'insufficient referral information' were reported the most frequent causes of unnecessary investigations. Correlations between causes of increasing and unnecessary radiology use were identified.


In order to manage the growth in radiological imaging and curtail inappropriate investigations, the study findings point to measures that influence the supply and demand of services, specifically to support the decision-making process of physicians.