Increased need for anesthetics in children undergoing MRI scans is raising costs and could cause an accountable care organization (ACO) cost containment problem, according to researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio, who set out to study trends in anesthesia use in children receiving these tests.
Researchers obtained insurance claims data from the hospital’s Partners for Kids organization, and examined the MRI data of patients less than 18 years of age from 2011 to 2014. This resulted in 17,221 MRI encounters and 18,543 separate exams, which averaged out to about 11 to 12 encounters per 10,000 member-months. The ages of the children in each encounter were grouped into 1 to 6 years old, 7 to 12 years old and 12 to 18 years old. Each encounter was classified by its procedure code for anesthesia or sedation.
The study found that the need for anesthesia in pediatric patients increased from 21% in 2011 to 28% in 2014. The highest percentage of increased use was found in the group aged 1 to 6 years old (0.64% monthly increase), and the lowest percentage of increased use was in children aged 7 to 12 years (0.42% monthly increase). Researchers found that the increase was not attributable to any specific demographic or type of exam.
Pediatric patients undergoing MRI who require sedation have increased in the share of costs from 22% in 2011 to 33% in 2014. Those increases could eventually cause problems for ACO cost containment, according to the researchers.