Radiation Exposure from CT Scans More Dangerous Than Previously Thought

Recently, it was reported that radiation overexposure from CT scans may be more severe than health care professionals previously thought. Research from two new studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine has found that patients may be exposed to four times more radiation than estimated by prior studies. The studies caution against the overuse of CT scans, as well as other medical technologies using radiation, including mammograms.

The studies also found that there is a large variation in the amount of radiation patients receive from the most common types of CT scans, those of the abdomen, pelvis and chest. A survey of four hospitals revealed that some patients received 13 times more radiation than others for the same type of scan.

Researchers stated that the large differences between scans may be attributed to the lack of standardized settings in CT technology, as well as differences in how the doctors use the technology for each patient. CT scans are able to produce images of the body that offer more detail than x-rays, and their use has more than tripled to 70 million since the 1990s.

Ultimately, the studies determined that the 72 million CT scans currently performed yearly in the U.S. could lead to 29,000 more cases of cancer and 15,000 more deaths a year. The most common type of predicted radiation-associated cancer is lung cancer, followed by colon cancer and leukemia. On December 7, 2009 the FDA issued interim regulations requiring closer monitoring of CT scans. These regulations came after more than 250 cases of exposure to excess regulation were reported over the past two years.

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