NU Online News Service, Oct. 15, 2003, 5:55 p.m. EDT – Increasing demand for diagnostic imaging from consumers, wider availability of imaging equipment and excessive use of imaging technology are driving up U.S. health care costs, according to a report released by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, Chicago.

The authors of the report predict that diagnostic imaging costs will grow to $100 billion per year by 2005, up from about $75 billion in 2000.

Consumers may be demanding more imaging services partly because the new imaging systems are less invasive than the old systems were, the authors write.

Doctors seem to be using the new imaging procedures to supplement ultrasound technology, X-ray technology and other older technologies rather than to replace them, the authors observe.

The authors back up their views about imaging technology use with data from a large health plan and the American College of Radiology, Washington.

When the authors calculated average expenditures on imaging procedures per member per month, they found that expenditures increased 45% between 1999 and 2001 for computed tomography scans. Expenditures on magnetic resonance imaging rose 47%; expenditures on X-rays, 18%; and expenditures on ultrasounds, 23%.