Wat levert MRI-onderzoek op bij mensen zonder klachten?

Yolanda van der Graaf en Pieter van Eijsden

We kunnen het niet laten: gezonde mensen scannen op zoek naar afwijkingen die zo ernstig zijn dat de betrokkene zonder medisch ingrijpen ernstig ziek wordt of sterft. Voor organisaties als Prescan – u weet wel, die ‘uit liefde voor het leven’ – is het een ijzersterk verdienmodel: gezonde mensen scannen en ze met scan en al over de schutting van de reguliere gezondheidszorg gooien als je iets afwijkends vindt.

What are the benefits of MRI scans for people without symptoms?

Commercial enterprises are selling MRI scans with the promise of longer and happier lives. A recent paper summarises the literature on this claim. We notice that, despite decades of this practice, very little careful research can be found. However, it does seem that serious issues are discovered in about 4% of people. When examining the supplementary materials, most of these issues turn out not to be of a serious nature, despite having been classified as such. Finally, scant and low-quality follow-up shows that only 0.4% of people end up with a serious diagnosis and we remain in the dark about whether the scans had any impact on their clinical outcomes. The paper also does not address the myriad of downsides related to scanning healthy people, such as needless distress and interventions for false-positives. We propose to incentivise proper collection of data by transferring the cost of following up on false-negative findings from the healthcare system to the MRI companies.

Conflict of interest and financial support: none declared.