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The mission of the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute® is to establish foundational evidence for health policy and radiology practice that promotes the effective and efficient use of health care resources and improves patient care.

December 6, 2021

Higher-Acuity Neuroimaging Findings Point to the Impact of Delayed Imaging During the Pandemic

Reston, VA – A new study from the Neiman Health Policy Institute looked at brain MRI acuity before and during the COVID-19 pandemic and found that the proportion of higher acuity findings increased significantly during the pandemic.  Importantly, even after imaging volumes recovered in the health system, the rate of cases at the highest acuity was 25% higher than the same period of 2019 – and were slightly higher than during the 3-months when imaging volumes dropped significantly.

The results of the Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology study support concerns that delayed imaging during the pandemic may result in later detection of disease.  While higher levels of acuity for imaging findings during the early months of the pandemic are likely a result of similar factors with patients needing the most medical attention presenting more urgently, it is concerning that the higher acuity persisted after volumes rebounded which suggests that the care delays many patients experienced during the early months of the pandemic may have resulted in clinical deteriorations that weren’t detected as early as otherwise would have occurred.

The study was not able to determine the direct cause of the observed higher acuity neuroimaging findings.  The majority of examinations were for transient ischemic attack or stroke.  While COVID-19 could have contributed directly, the results also point to the importance of maintaining access to advanced imaging for early detection that can improve outcomes.


In the Press:
Read the press article on this study in Radiology Business by Marty Stempniak. 


To obtain a copy of the study or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, contact Nichole Gay at (703) 648-1665 or



About the Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute

The Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute is one of the nation’s leading medical imaging socioeconomic research organizations. The Neiman Institute studies the role and value of radiology and radiologists in evolving health care delivery and payment systems and the impact of medical imaging on the cost, quality, safety and efficiency of health care. Visit us at and follow us on TwitterLinkedIn and Facebook.


Nichole Gay
Harvey L. Neiman Health Policy Institute