Scanning the evidence for imaging in acute RTIs: NPS webinar recording now available

31 May 2012

A recording of the inaugural NPS webinar for GPs on medical imaging in respiratory tract infections (RTIs) is now available for all health professionals to view for free on the NPS website.

The webinar, hosted as part of the NPS campaign on antibiotic resistance, allowed GPs to engage with imaging experts and gain insights into when imaging is appropriate for RTIs.

NPS CEO, Dr Lynn Weekes, says that inappropriate use of imaging tests to diagnose defined RTIs is on the rise.

“There is a limited role for medical imaging in the diagnosis of acute RTIs outside of pneumonia, however the number of tests continues to rise. Evidence shows that chest x-rays are the most commonly ordered imaging test and they are mostly ordered for respiratory problems – the top two being acute bronchitis and bronchiolitis, and cough.

“The result of this is a large number of needless scans, exposing patients to unnecessary ionising radiation and potentially risking their future health,” says Dr Weekes.

“Insufficient national GP guidelines about imaging may be contributing to the rise in inappropriate testing. Taking part in activities like the NPS webinar will help GPs make better decisions when it comes to ordering imaging tests for RTIs.”

Dr Weekes says there are a number of factors GPs need to consider when it comes to imaging in RTIs.

“When considering a test’s usefulness in the diagnosis and management of an RTI, GPs should think about whether the potential benefits of the test are likely to outweigh the risks and whether the results will contribute in a meaningful way to the management decision. If an imaging test is indicated then the benefits and risks should be explained to the patient and any concerns should be addressed.”

Another significant contributor to inappropriate testing, and one that is often less discussed, is patient pressure.

“In the interest of preserving the doctor-patient relationship and the desire to allay patient fears of a more serious diagnosis, some GPs feel pressure to order imaging tests despite there being no evidence base to do so,” says Dr Weekes.

“The NPS webinar provided GPs the opportunity to raise these difficult patient situations with imaging experts, clarify when medical imaging should be ordered for an RTI and discuss which tests are most appropriate.”

Expert panelists in the webinar included radiologist Dr Greg Briggs, respiratory physician Associate Professor Graeme Maguire, and GP Dr James Best. Dr Philippa Binns, NPS Clinical Adviser, convened the webinar.

The webinar can be viewed for free on the NPS website at

By viewing the recording and completing the evaluation form at the end:

  • GPs can earn 2 (category 2) RACGP QI&CPD Points and/or 2 ACRRM PRPD Points + 2 PRPD Radiology MOPS Points for the 2011–2013 triennium
  • Pharmacists can earn 2 Group 2 CPD credits  as accredited by PSA. (PSA is authorised by the Australian Pharmacy Council to accredit providers of CPD activities for pharmacists that may be used as supporting evidence of continuing competence.)

Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests.We are funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.