Orthopaedic Defensive Medicine Costs $2 Billion Annually, Mostly Imaging

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The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates the cost of defensive medicine among the specialty at about $2 billion annually. And most of the defensive medicine costs come from diagnostic imaging tests. 

The academy surveyed 1,214 respondents, 96% of which admitted to practicing defensive medicine. 

“On average, 24% of all ordered tests were for defensive reasons (radiography, 19%; CT scanning, 26%; MR imaging, 31%; ultrasound, 44%; referrals, 35%; laboratory tests, 23%; and biopsies, 18%),” according to the study abstract. 

Using Medicare reimbursement data, the average cost of defensive medicine per respondent was $8,500 monthly or roughly $100,000 annually. With 20,400 orthopaedic surgeons practicing in United States, defensive medicine accounts for an estimated $173 million per month.