Excessive CT Scans

Posted By Chuck Paulson || 30-Nov-2007

There have been concerns raised in a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine that CT is being overused and that high lifetime doses of radiation are becoming a public health hazard.

In 1980 3 million CT scans were performed but this number jumped to 62 million by 2006. Each scan gives the patient a far higher dose of radiation that a normal x-ray would. Even many doctors have no idea how much radiation a CT scan delivers.

The medical benefits from a single CT far outweigh the slight radiation risk. If the CT scan is not medically indicated such as full-body scans to screen patients on the slim chance that some hidden disease might be detected, or when scans are repeated again and again as patients go from one doctor to another, but their records lag behind.

Previous estimates were that a third of all CT scans done in the United States could be replaced with less risky diagnostic methods or not done at all. This means that some 20 million patients in this country are being exposed to unneeded radiation each year. In coming years the researchers suggest 2% of all cancers in the United States may be because of radiation from CT scans .

The lesson for patients and doctors is clear:only use CT scans in cases where they can truly aid in diagnosis and consider other options which do not have a radiation risk.