Trends in echocardiography utilization in the Veterans Administration Healthcare System

Kingston Okrah, Mary Vaughan-Sarrazin, Peter Cram

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: There is growing concern over the impact of accelerating use of diagnostic imaging services on health care spending. Echocardiography is an important cardiovascular imaging procedure, but little is known about trends in its use or utilization. We examine trends in the utilization of echocardiography in a national health care system. Methods: We used administrative data from the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VA) from 2000 to 2007 to identify patients receiving regular medical care (VA users) or echocardiograms at the VA. We then examined the number of echocardiograms performed each year within the VA and echocardiogram utilization (rates per 1,000 VA users). We examined changes in echocardiogram use and utilization over time and potential overuse of echocardiography. Results: The number of echocardiograms increased from 92,269 in 2000 to 195,767 in 2007 (a 112.2% increase). Alternatively, echocardiogram utilization remained relatively stable, increasing from 68.8 per 1,000 VA users in 2000 to 71.5 per 1,000 VA users in 2007 because the number of VA users increased by 104.2% over the study period. The mean number of scans per year in echocardiogram recipients remained constant at 1.1/y, and the proportion of recipients receiving multiple scans remained constant at <10%. Conclusions: Use of echocardiography in the VA increased dramatically between 2000 and 2007, but utilization rates increased only modestly. Our results suggest that, within the VA, growth in the use of echocardiography resulted from an increase in the number of patients receiving care from the VA on regular basis rather than the performance of a greater number of echocardiograms on a fixed patient population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-483
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Heart Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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