What is medical imaging?
‘Medical imaging’ is a collective term for various techniques for obtaining an image of the body. In hospitals, medical imaging is used to diagnose, detect and monitor diseases at an early stage, support medical interventions and evaluate treatments.
We can distinguish the following ‘heavy’ medical imaging devices: CT, MRI, SPECT-CT and PET. These techniques all have their strengths and weaknesses. There is therefore no generally applicable technique. What is a good imaging technique for one disorder is not always the same for another.
Number of heavy medical imaging devices in Belgium (01/01/2023)
Use of medical imaging in Belgium and Europe
Medical imaging has played a major role in the enormous progress made in modern medicine and plays an ever greater role in our healthcare. However, there is also a downside to the frequent use of techniques such as CT scans, namely the increased exposure to ionising radiation. Compared with the average number of examinations per 1,000 inhabitants in EU countries, a large number of CT examinations are performed in our country.
Number of examinations per 1,000 inhabitants for CT and MRI scans in the EU in 2019.
In 2019, the use of CT examinations was about 40% higher in Austria, France, Luxembourg and Belgium than the average use in EU countries. In the case of MRI, we note that the number of examinations per 1,000 inhabitants in our country (98) is noticeably lower than in France (123), Austria (148) and Germany (150).
Number of examinations per 1,000 population CT and MRI in EU in 2019
Actions for the improved use of medical imaging
To ensure that medical imaging is used more effectively, the FPS is launching several actions, both for doctors and for the general public.
For example, NIHDI, the FPS Public Health and the Belgian Medical Imaging Platform (BELMIP) are working together on the ‘Prescription Search Support for Radiology (PSSR)’ project. The goal of this project is to integrate evidence-based decision rules into physicians’ electronic prescribing environment so that they are supported in a user-friendly way when choosing whether a radiological examination is necessary and, if so, which imaging technique will best help the patient. The roll-out of this project will begin in the autumn of 2024.
Citizens will also be informed about situations in which a scan is often unnecessarily demanded. An example is back pain. CT scans of the lower back are still too often prescribed when it is not always indicated, which in turn contributes to the high radiation burden on the population and weighs heavily on the healthcare budget.
By means of the campaign ‘No scan without a plan’ we want to create awareness so that citizens know that in case of lower back pain, it is best not to put unnecessary pressure on their doctor to obtain a radiological examination. Indeed, many patients feel that if no examination is prescribed, their complaint cannot be investigated properly or even taken seriously and this leads to unnecessary examinations. The patient’s question stems from anxiety. It is therefore important for citizens to know that even without medical imaging, a plan of action can be created that focuses on what really helps, which is to keep moving. In exceptional cases where a radiological examination is still appropriate, the physician will always frame this examination within a larger plan of action. Hence the campaign’s slogan: ‘No scan without a plan’
Learn more? Check with your doctor or specialist or surf to: https://www.pasderayonssansreflexion.be/
Source: OECD, Health Statistics 2022; Eurostat Database