Radiation Testing Concerns

Routine medical testing is causing concern over radiation exposure and increased <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/diseases">cancer risks in this country. It seems that the majority of adult patients who received certain medical tests in the past few years might have been over-exposed, according to an emerging study.

The Associated Press (AP) reports that as many as two-thirds of the patients might have been placed at risk for radiation exposure and cancer. The study looked at five U.S. locations, said the AP, and was conducted to determine the amount of radiation Americans receive from medical imaging, some of which are considered unnecessary or not proven as valuable.

The LATimesBlog noted that the research was just reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and included Dr. Reza Fazel of the Emory University School of Medicine and colleagues. CT scans and heart perfusion scanning are considered the two main issues, said the LATimes. CT scans provide three-dimensional imaging via X-ray technology and heart perfusion scanning utilizes an injectable, radioactive element to enable measurement of blood flow through arteries to the heart, the LATimes, explained.

The Wall Street Journal blog pointed out that about four million adults in the U.S. receive “high” to “very high” radiation dosing from medical testing, citing the Journal, which also stated that the per capita radiation dose to Americans due to medical testing has increased an astounding six-fold in the past two decades. According to National Institutes of Health (NIH) doctor, Michael Lauer, “We have to think and talk explicitly about the elements of danger in exposing our patients to radiation,” the Wall Street Journal quoted.

The team looked at nearly one million insurance claims covered by insurer, UnitedHealthcare, in Arizona, Dallas, Wisconsin, and two areas of Florida, said the AP. The majority—70 percent—received no less than one test between 2005 and 2007 exposing them to twice as much radiation as could be experienced in nature, said the AP, citing the research.

The LATimes explained that radiation’s link to cancer is generally seen years following exposure and that while some believe radiation exposure as a result of medical testing is associated to two percent of all cancer cases, other experts believe that figure is much higher and growing. A significant concern since the demographic on which these types of tests are being performed is affecting ever-younger populations, said the LATimes.

“Given the growing use of medical imaging procedures, our findings have important implications for the health of the general population,” said the researchers, quoted the AP. “CT scans produce beautiful pictures, but they generate a huge amount of radiation compared with a standard X-ray,” said Dr. Lauer of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, who was not part of the study but wrote of the problem in the same issue of the Journal. In about 20 percent of the cases, the group found that moderate to high exposure to radiation occurred, according to the AP.

Of note, the LATimes said that, based on other studies, there is the possibility of a link between the increasing number of CT scans and the fact that some physicians are actually part owners of the machinery. Also significant, full body CT scans were not included in the study because that testing is not covered by insurance, but is conducted to locate disease in healthy individuals, the LATimes, said.

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