The direct costs of coronary CT angiography relative to contrast-enhanced thoracic CT: Time-driven activity-based costing

Michael E. Zimmerman, Juan C. Batlle, Cathleen Biga, Ron Blankstein, Brian B. Ghoshhajra, Mark G. Rabbat, George E. Wesbey, Geoffrey D. Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Coronary CT angiography (CCTA) and contrast-enhanced thoracic CT (CECT) are distinctly different diagnostic procedures that involve intravenous contrast-enhanced CT of the chest. The technical component of these procedures is reimbursed at the same rate by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This study tests the hypothesis that the direct costs of performing these exams are significantly different. Methods: Direct costs for both procedures were measured using a time-driven activity-based costing (TDABC) model. The exams were segmented into four phases: preparation, scanning, post-scan monitoring, and image processing. Room occupancy and direct labor times were collected for scans of 54 patients (28 CCTA and 26 CECT studies), in seven medical facilities within the USA and used to impute labor and equipment cost. Contrast material costs were measured directly. Cost differences between the exams were analyzed for significance and variability. Results: Mean CCTA duration was 3.2 times longer than CECT (121 and 37 ​min, respectively. p ​< ​0.01). Mean CCTA direct costs were 3.4 times those of CECT ($189.52 and $55.28, respectively, p ​< ​0.01). Both labor and capital equipment costs for CCTA were significantly more expensive (6.5 and 1.8-fold greater, respectively, p ​< ​0.001). Segmented by procedural phase, CCTA was both longer and more expensive for each (p ​< ​0.01). Mean direct costs for CCTA exceeded the standard CMS technical reimbursement of $182.25 without accounting for indirect or overhead costs. Conclusion: The direct cost of performing CCTA is significantly higher than CECT, and thus reimbursement schedules that treat these procedures similarly undervalue the resources required to perform CCTA and possibly decrease access to the procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-483
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Angiography
  • CMS
  • Coronary
  • Cost
  • CT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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