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February 21, 2001

PET Scans and Technology Assessment: Déjà Vu?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of Clinical Care Research, New England Medical Center, Boston, Mass.

JAMA. 2001;285(7):936-937. doi:10.1001/jama.285.7.936

Few diagnostic technologies deployed during the past 3 decades have had as profound an impact on clinical medicine as computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). While these technologies have improved case management, they have also become a billion-dollar industry that has had a major impact on rising health care costs. It is concerning, therefore, that these expensive technologies have been widely adopted before being adequately evaluated.1,2 With the emergence of positron emission tomography (PET) from research laboratories into routine clinical use, physicians are faced once again with a new technology that promises to deliver more but that also costs more. At the current Medicare reimbursement rate of approximately $2000 per PET scan,3 unfettered use of this technology would easily add billions of dollars in spending to an already stressed health care financing system.