(HealthDay News) – For Medicare beneficiaries, repeat testing within three years is common, according to a study published online Nov. 19 in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

H. Gilbert Welch, MD, MPH, from Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, and colleagues examined patterns of repeat testing in a longitudinal study involving a random sample of 743,478 Medicare beneficiaries who were alive for three years after their index test conducted from 2004–2006.

The researchers found that repeat testing within three years was common following examinations: 55% of beneficiaries had a second echocardiography, while 44% of imaging stress tests, 49% of pulmonary function tests, 46% of chest computed tomography, 41% of cystoscopies, and 35% of upper endoscopies were repeated. Across metropolitan statistical areas, the proportion of the population tested and proportion of tests repeated varied; for example, 48% underwent echocardiography in Miami, with 66% of examinations repeated within three years, compared with 18% in Portland, OR, with 47% of examinations repeated. Across 50 metropolitan statistical areas, there was a consistent and significant positive association between the proportion of the population tested with the proportion of tests repeated.

“In conclusion, diagnostic tests are frequently repeated among Medicare beneficiaries,” the authors write. “Although the tests themselves pose little risk, repeat testing is a major risk factor for incidental detection and overdiagnosis. Our findings should foster further research in this unstudied area.”

Full Text (subscription or payment may be required)
Editorial (subscription or payment may be required)