MR imaging can make a dramatic difference in the management of patients with ankle pain, changing treatment in about one-third of the patients, a new study finds.
The study, of 91 patients, found that MR changed the management plans of 35% of patients, said Philip W.P. Bearcroft, MD, of Cambridge University Hospitals in England. "This is itself is significant, but more significant is the fact that before an MRI was done, 65 of the 91 patients were scheduled to undergo surgery. After an MRI was done, nine of those patients were treated nonsurgically," Dr. Bearcroft said.
Dr. Bearcroft and his colleagues conducted the study in conjunction with an orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at a regional teaching hospital. The surgeon noted his proposed treatment plan for each patient before and after an MR examination. The surgeon also noted the potential diagnoses for each injury. Before an MR examination was done, the surgeon indicated an average 2.3 possible diagnoses per patient. "After MRI was performed, the number of diagnoses per patient was reduced to 1.2," said Dr. Bearcroft. MRI increased the referring physician's confidence in his diagnoses, Dr. Bearcroft said. "In 66% of the MRI examinations performed, the referring surgeon felt that his understanding of the patient's disease had either depended upon or had been substantially improved by MRI," he added.
"This study is a bit different than the traditional radiological study," Dr. Bearcroft said. "Most studies relate to improving technique or look at the accuracy and predictive value of imaging techniques. This one was designed to determine if we really make a difference to the referring physician and the patient," he said.