Objectives: The semiprivate health system in Iran has created an opportunity for unnecessary uses of advanced medical equipments including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This study aimed to evaluate the evidence for MRI overuse in private diagnostic imaging centers in Tehran, Iran. The objectives of this study were to determine the frequency of use of MRI scans for different complaints and to explore frequency of normal MRI findings as a function of unnecessary MRI use.
Methods: We conducted a survey among private MRI centers in Tehran, Iran, to study the proportion of MRI scans that may result in significant clinical finding. All MRI reports at a specific point in time at selected MRI centers were reviewed by a physician and the findings were recorded as normal, abnormal, or substantial changes.
Results: Of all the MRI reports, 17.2 percent had resulted in normal findings; 9.8 percent ordered for examination of headache, and 4.8 percent for lower back pain.
Conclusion: Unnecessary MRIs are most likely to result in normal finding; although not all the MRI with normal results could be identified as unnecessary. Negative findings from MRI scans may be reassuring to both clinicians and patients. The proportion of normal findings in MRI scans did not provide evidence of MRI overuse in Iran. The results of this study warrant formation of guidelines for the use of MRIs for headache and low back pain disorders.