Racial and Ethnic Differences in Diagnostic Imaging Utilization During Adult Emergency Department Visits in the United States, 2005 to 2014.


Department of Emergency Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. Electronic address: [Email]


OBJECTIVE : To compare the use of medical imaging (x-ray [XR], CT, ultrasound, and MRI) in the emergency department (ED) for adult patients of different racial and ethnic groups in the United States from 2005 to 2014.
METHODS : We performed a multilevel stratified regression analysis of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey ED Subfile, a nationally representative database of hospital-based ED visits. We examined race (white, black, Asian, other) and ethnicity (Hispanic versus non-Hispanic) as the primary exposures for the outcomes of ED medical imaging use (XR, CT, ultrasound, MRI, and any imaging). We controlled for other potential patient-level and facility-level determinants of ED imaging use.
RESULTS : Approximately half (48.8%) of the 225,037 adult patient ED visits underwent imaging; 36.1% underwent XR, 16.4% CT, 4.1% ultrasound, and 0.8% MRI. White patients received imaging during 51.3% of their encounters, black patients received imaging during 43.6% of their encounters, Asians received imaging during 50.8% of their encounters, and other races received imaging during 46% of their encounters. As compared with white patients, black patients had decreased adjusted odds of receiving imaging in the ED (odds ratio [OR] = 0.86, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.84-0.89). Comparatively, black patients had a lower odds of CT scan (OR = 0.80, 95% CI: 0.77-0.83) or MRI (OR = 0.74, 95% CI: 0.65-0.85). Hispanic patients and Asian patients had a higher odds of receiving ultrasound (OR = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.27-1.44 and OR = 1.25, 95% CI: 1.10-1.42), respectively.
CONCLUSIONS : We observed significant racial and ethnic differences in medical imaging use in the ED even after controlling for patient- and facility-level factors.


Emergency department,emergency radiology,ethnicity,imaging use,racial disparities,