Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California


UC San Francisco Previously Published Works bannerUCSF

Variations in Radiographic Procedure Use for Medicare Patients With Rheumatoid Arthritis

Published Web Location


In 2013, the American College of Rheumatology published its Choosing Wisely list, which identified 2 radiographic procedures (peripheral joint magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] and dual x-ray absorptiometry [DXA] scans) that were at risk for overuse.


We performed a retrospective cross-sectional cohort study to measure the use of peripheral joint MRI, peripheral joint radiographs, and DXA scans in a national cohort of Medicare patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) during 2008-2009, before the start of the Choosing Wisely campaign. Diagnoses were identified via International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes; utilization was calculated using Current Procedural Terminology codes. Utilization was analyzed at the individual level and at the regional level (by hospital referral region [HRR]).


There were 8,051 patients with RA who were included: 81% were women, and the mean age was 76 years. Over a 2-year period, the mean number of peripheral joint MRIs per beneficiary was 0.3 (median 0 [range 0-50]), peripheral joint radiographs per beneficiary was 2.6 (median 1 [range 0-33]), and DXA scans per beneficiary was 0.7 (median 0 [range 0-11]). Only 6.8% of patients received >1 peripheral joint MRI, and 6% of HRRs had a mean number of peripheral joint MRIs >1.


There is variation in the use of peripheral joint MRI, peripheral joint radiographs, and DXA scans among Medicare patients with RA, although only a small number of HRRs have consistently high utilization. Although we cannot judge the appropriateness of each procedure, variation in use across regions signals the need for investigations to examine potential overutilization.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View