A study in the April 2010 Journal of the American College of Radiology examines the association of advanced imaging with reduced length of stay (LOS). Examining 10,005 admissions from 2005 that included advanced imaging studies and a LOS of at least 3 days, Battle and colleagues compared the average LOS of patients that were imaged in the "peri-admission" period- day -1 or day 0 of admission with those that were imaged on day 1 or 2. Using t-test and linear analyses, LOS was significantly lower in the population imaged in the per-admission period for all admissions, all CTs, all MRs, abdominal CT, neurologic MR and abdominal ICD-9 codes There was no significant difference for other types of CTs, MR and nuclear scintigraphy.
The authors note that this study "suggests early imaging could expedite inpatient care," allowing hospitals to provide necessary treatment in a more timely manner. However, they are careful to also remark that the results represent correlation not causation. There are likely a number of confounding factors affecting results and imaging does not automatically achieve reduced LOS. But considering the large number included in the study (10,000+ admissions), this relationship between early imaging and reduced LOS is quite compelling and certainly warrants follow-up experiments to better pinpoint causative factors.