Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Important: All MRIs are not created equal

The e-patient blog has a potent new author, Christine Gray. She initially described the near-fatal errors in her daughter's treatment here. Now she's posted something that's important for everyone to understand before they need diagnostic imaging: All MRIs are not created equal.

Without a doubt, when your turn comes you will be encouraged to use whatever scanner happens to be in your hospital's building or whichever one they use. It will be very hard to get anyone to tell you where there might be better facilities.

From the original article that Christine cites:

I asked Dr. Kennedy the same question and received the same answer. He explained that in my case the quality of the two images was vastly different. “It’s like the difference between a black-and-white TV and HDTV,” he said.

All well and good, but how was I supposed to know? The radiology center I first went to is accredited by the American College of Radiology, and there is no way I can tell a good M.R.I. image from a bad one. In fact, I never even saw the images. All I saw were the radiologists’ reports.

I'm class secretary for my college class. Last year a classmate wrote that she'd had an extremely awkward growth in her inner ear, and the first images they saw were not sharp enough. She badgered her way to a top academic medical center at Stanford where they had a scanner with three times the power, and the image was crystal clear. She herself used the black-and-white vs HDTV analogy.

What I don't know, at this point, is what to do about this. Wouldn't it be good to have accurate public ratings of the best and more mediocre places, rated by the people quoted in that article?

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