CT scan radiation dangers often overlooked, use of images increasing


CT scan radiation dangers often overlooked, use of images increasingCT scans have revolutionized medicine in some ways but their abilities have over-sold its benefits and are putting a lot of patients at risk of radiation overexposure.

According to a New York Times editorial this week, the use of CT scans is ever increasing. Now, as many as three-quarters of all medical images taken are by CT scans, far surpassing its predecessor, the X-ray. CT scans provide a more detailed image and in some cases, give doctors the ability to find otherwise missed maladies.

The drawback to CT scans, that many doctors fail to mention and patients often don’t realize, is their use of high amounts of radiation. A CT scan contains up to 500-more times radiation than an ordinary X-ray.

In many cases, a doctor may order a CT scan before even seeing a patient. It could be a means of avoiding a potential malpractice lawsuit, as they’ll claim, but most scans performed are unnecessary. Children and the elderly are those mostly likely to react poorest to high amounts of radiation. Radiation overexposure could cause cancer and disrupt DNA patterns, according to numerous studies on its effect.

The elderly appear to be the next targeted demographic who will receive CT scans as their use in seeing accumulations in coronary arteries has increased. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved CT scans for this use and there is little evidence to show that this scan is better than an X-ray for this indication.

It’s just one more setting in which CT scans are almost encouraged in making a diagnosis and the editorial, echoing the sentiments of numerous recent studies, suggests patients familiarize themselves with the dangers of radiation exposure posed by CT scans and that physicians work to limit their use.