Ensuring appropriate use of knee imaging services

The Australian Government is introducing changes to Medicare-funded knee imaging, to ensure that these services are aligned with best practice. These changes follow recommendations from the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce.

Page last updated: 14 November 2018

Ensuring appropriate use of knee imaging services (PDF 198 KB)

What are the changes?

New restrictions on knee MRI services

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an important tool in diagnosing acute knee injuries, particularly those associated with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

Since the introduction of GP-requested MRIs, there has been a large increase in the number of knee MRIs performed each year. There is strong evidence that older people with chronic knee pain and osteoarthritis are being referred for MRIs by GPs when this is not the appropriate test – often no test is required to commence treatment.

From 1 November 2018, new restrictions will be introduced to limit the ability of GPs to request knee MRIs for patients 50 years and over. Specialists will still be able to request knee MRIs for any patient, regardless of the patient's age.

These changes will reduce unnecessary MRIs and help ensure patients are receiving the right test, at the right place, at the right time.

Other changes

The current requirement of a mandatory X-ray before an MRI in patients aged less than 16 years of age will be removed, to avoid unnecessary doses of radiation.

In addition, new items are being introduced to support the ongoing monitoring of computed tomography (CT) and X-ray of the knee. This will help future reviews assess whether these services are being used appropriately.

Why are these changes being made?

The changes were recommended by the MBS Review Taskforce following an extensive period of consultation.

The Taskforce is conducting a clinician-led review, and makes recommendations to the Government on how the MBS can be modernised to improve patient safety, support equity of access and reduce waste.

Changes to knee imaging services are being introduced to ensure MBS funded knee imaging services are being provided appropriately.

What does this mean for patients?

Patients will benefit from receiving recognised best practice knee imaging services. Patients will not undergo unnecessary knee MRIs or exposure to radiation.

What does this mean for providers?

GPs will not be able to refer patients aged 50 years and over for knee MRIs. There will be no change to specialists requesting MRIs for any age group. Providers will need to use new item numbers for knee X-rays and knee CTs.

Providers affected by these changes will receive further information closer to the implementation date.

Questions and Answers

PDF version: Changes to Medicare Funded Knee Imaging Services – Questions and Answers (PDF 35 KB)
Word version: Changes to Medicare Funded Knee Imaging Services – Questions and Answers (Word 35 KB)