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Overexposed: Mass. Is Mecca For MRIs09:24
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Is it a headache or a brain tumor? Experts warn of overexposure to radiation as a result of easy access to the machines in Massachusetts. (Just Us 3/Flickr)
Is it a headache or a brain tumor? Experts warn of overexposure to radiation as a result of easy access to the machines in Massachusetts. (Just Us 3/Flickr)

Massachusetts houses 42 MRI machines for every one million Bay Staters. The national average? Twenty-six per million people. The machines cost some $1.5 million apiece and about $800,000 a year to operate. This might be too much of a good thing.

Many experts warn that unnecessary exposure to radiation is harmful. Radiation overexposure contributes to an increase in cancer risk, and the zest for imaging may result in tens of thousands of new cancer cases a year.

A November 2008 study (PDF) by the McKinsey Global Institute finds the United States spends nearly $100 billion for medical imaging. And a new report from the state auditor says Massachusetts may be losing millions due to an increase in unnecessary MRIs, as well as a lack of safeguards against potential conflicts of interest by physicians who "self-refer" patients to facilities in which they have a financial stake.

Auditor Joe DeNucci's report said Massachusetts "lost the opportunity to save more than 8.5 million in Medicaid payments" between 2007 and 2009.

We examine the impact of magnetic resonance imaging, both on our bodies and our wallets.

This program aired on September 7, 2010.

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