RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Utilization of lower extremity arterial disease diagnostic and revascularization procedures in Medicare beneficiaries 2000-2007.

OBJECTIVE: The recent escalation in lower extremity revascularization procedures suggests a concomitant increase in peripheral arterial disease (PAD) screening. We hypothesized that self-referring physicians would show the greatest growth in noninvasive physiologic testing for PAD and similar trends for revascularization procedures. We compared utilization rates for self-referring specialties (vascular surgery, interventional radiology, and cardiology) with the utilization rate for a referral-based specialty (diagnostic radiology), assuming the latter to be "basal"--that is, responsive only to changes in demographics and medical knowledge.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We analyzed 100% procedure-specific claims for services provided to Medicare Part B beneficiaries during 6 years over an 8-year span (2000-2007). We extracted all Current Procedural Terminology codes for lower extremity vascular noninvasive physiologic studies, peripheral arterial stent placement, and transluminal angioplasty. Utilization volumes were adjusted per 100,000 beneficiaries. Compound annual growth rates were calculated.

RESULTS: Utilization of both noninvasive physiologic and revascularization services increased steadily over the study period. Growth rates of diagnostic services provided by interventional radiologists (7%) and vascular surgeons (8%) were slightly higher than the basal rate (7%), with cardiologists (14%) at the top of the list. For revascularization procedures, vascular surgery showed the greatest growth (28%), a rate more than twice that of cardiology (13%); radiology experienced a decrease in volumes (-2%).

CONCLUSION: Self-referring specialists are screening large volumes of Medicare beneficiaries for lower extremity PAD at an accelerated rate compared with testing done by those who do not self-refer. Similar trends exist for endovascular interventions.

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