Feds Raise Concerns Over CT Scan Overuse

In one hospital, it seems that physicians were calling for double <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/CT_CAT_Scan_Radiation_Overdose">CT scans, scans in which one is conducted with and one without injected dye, wrote The Chicago Tribune. Neither the physicians nor the hospital realized they were delivering large radiation doses to their patients, noted The Chicago Tribune. Generally, only one scan is needed.

In the meantime, the government is documenting healthcare quality in the U.S. and has recently published information on medical imaging. The review and documentation are just part of a larger effort to point out how hospitals follow guidelines and care and save patients, said The Chicago Tribune. Over 4,600 U.S. hospitals submit their information to the government, which, in turn, posts the information on the Hospital Compare Website, added The Tribune. Now, information about hospital outpatient services, such as emergency rooms and clinics, is being posted.

Nationally, the 2008 average for double CT scans of the chest was five percent and for the abdomen was 19 percent, said The Tribune noting that CT scan overuse subjects patients to radiation that could be cancer causing. Experts feel that while CT scans are an important life-saving medical tool, they may be being ordered more often than necessary, explained The Tribune.

Consider this, every double chest CT scan exposes the patient to a massive 700 times more radiation than a chest X-ray; double abdominal scans dose the patient with 22 times more radiation, said The Tribune. Emerging research reveals a link exists between cancer and radiation delivered via diagnostic testing.

The issues surrounding CT scans and related radiation exposure risks have been making headlines in recent months with experts urging for increased regulation over these diagnostic tests. Recently, The Associated Press (AP) wrote that long-term cancer risks and radiation overdoses are just two of the issues linked to the devices.

We recently wrote, citing the AP, that although radiation seems to be everywhere, from “airport scanners, power lines, cell phones … microwaves,” the worst comes from medical scans, with Americans—accounting for receipt of half of the more sophisticated medical procedures utilizing radiation–-receiving the largest quantities.

A recent New England Journal of Medicine issue and a prior AP report both cited overuse of these tests and that the typical American’s radiation is on the rise. The average American receives radiation six times more than in previous decades, said the AP previously. And, the risk is increasing because the incidence of imaging tests is increasing, said the AP. Of note, CT scans use much more radiation than regular X-rays, but deliver crisper, sharper images, noted the AP. The downside is that too much radiation can, over time, increase cancer risks.

We recently wrote that the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) stated that the link between environmental carcinogens and cancers are much greater than ever realized, pointing to the huge increase in exposure to medical radiation. The PCP report said that a typical “organ dose range for computed tomography (CT),” when considering multiple scans and operator administration, “is 5-100 mSv,” the same dose an “average Hiroshima bomb drop survivor who stood several thousand yards from ground zero” experienced, said DotMed.

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