AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2021 Mar 4. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A7049. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Lumbar punctures may be performed by many different types of health care providers. We evaluated the percentages of lumbar punctures performed by radiologists-versus-nonradiologist providers, including changes with time and discrepancies between specialties.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Lumbar puncture procedure claims were identified in a 5% sample of Medicare beneficiaries from 2004 to 2017 and classified by provider specialty, site of service, day of week, and patient complexity. Compound annual growth rates for 2004 versus 2017 were calculated; t test and χ2 statistical analyses were performed.
RESULTS: Lumbar puncture use increased from 163.3 to 203.4 procedures per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries from 2004 to 2017 (overall rate, 190.3). Concurrently, the percentage of lumbar punctures performed by radiologists increased from 37.1% to 54.0%, while proportions performed by other major physician specialty groups either declined (eg, neurologists from 23.5% to 10.0%) or were largely unchanged. While radiologists saw the largest absolute increase in the percentage of procedures, the largest relative increase occurred for nonphysician providers (4.2% in 2004 to 7.5% in 2017; +78.6%). In 2017, radiologists performed most procedures on weekdays (56.2%) and a plurality on weekends (38.2%). Comorbidity was slightly higher in patients undergoing lumbar puncture by radiologists (P < .001).
CONCLUSIONS: Radiologists now perform most lumbar puncture procedures for Medicare beneficiaries in both the inpatient and outpatient settings. The continuing shift in lumbar puncture responsibility from other specialists to radiologists has implications for clinical workflows, cost, radiation exposure, and postgraduate training.