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.