Repeat spine imaging in transferred emergency department patients

Jesse E. Bible, Rishin J. Kadakia, Harrison F. Kay, Chi E. Zhang, Geoffrey E. Casimir, Clinton J. Devin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


STUDY DESIGN.: Retrospective study. OBJECTIVE.: Assess frequency of repeat spine imaging in patients transferred with known spine injuries from outside hospital (OSH) to tertiary receiving institution (RI). SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA.: Unnecessary repeat imaging after transfer has started to become a recognized problem with the obvious issues related to repeat imaging along with potential for iatrogenic injury with movement of patients with spine problems. METHODS.: Consecutive adult patients presenting to a single 1-level trauma center with spine injuries during a 51-month period were reviewed (n = 4500), resulting in 1427 patients transferred from OSH emergency department. All imaging and radiology reports from the OSH were reviewed, as well as studies performed at RI. A repeat was the same imaging modality used on the same spine region as OSH imaging. RESULTS.: The overall rate of repeat spine imaging for both OSH imaging sent and not sent was 23%, and 6% if repeat spine imaging via traumagram (partial/full-body computed tomography [CT]) was excluded as a repeat. The overall rate of repeat CT was 29% (7% dedicated spine CT scans and 22% part of nondedicated spine CT scan).An observation of only those patients with OSH imaging that was sent and viewable revealed that 23% underwent repeat spine imaging with 23% undergoing repeat spine CT and 41% repeat magnetic resonance imaging.In those patients with sent and viewable OSH imaging, a lack of reconstructions prompted 14% of repeats, whereas inadequate visualization of injury site prompted 8%. In only 8% of the repeats did it change management or provide necessary surgical information. CONCLUSION.: This study is the first to investigate the frequency of repeat spine imaging in transfers with known spine injuries and found a substantially high rate of repeat spine CT with minimal alteration in care. Potential solutions include only performing scans at the OSH necessary to establish a diagnosis requiring transfer and improving communication between OSH and RI physicians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)291-296
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • imaging
  • repeat
  • spine
  • transfer


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