1. How Safe or Unsafe Are Medical Imaging Procedures?
Radiation exposure is a known risk factor for cancer. Although the radiation exposure from a single test is minimal often patients undergo repeated or multiple times of CT / PRT scan. This increases their cumulative exposure to potentially cancer-causing radiation.
2. Study Finds Radiation Risk for Patients
At least four million Americans under age 65 are exposed to high doses of radiation each year from medical imaging tests. About 400,000 of those patients receive very high doses, more than the maximum annual exposure allowed.
Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist and researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who has extensively studied the use of medical imaging, said it would probably result in tens of thousands of additional cancers. It’s certain that there are increased rates of cancer at low levels of radiation, and as you increase the levels of radiation, you increase cancer.
Dr. Reza Fazel, a cardiologist at Emory University, said “These procedures have a cost, not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of radiation risk.”
3. How Much Radiation Does A Person Get From Medical Imaging Studies?
- Getting a CT scan gives a patient as much radiation as 100 to 800 chest X-rays.
- Getting a nuclear medicine study exposes a patient to as much radiation as 10 to 2,050 chest X-rays.
- Getting a fluoroscopic procedure exposes a patient to as much radiation as 250 to 3,500 chest X-rays.
Moreover, doctors may prescribe scans that aren’t medically justified. And since risk from radiation exposure accumulates over a lifetime, certain scans may not be appropriate for people who’ve already had a lot of scans.
4. Which types of diagnostic imaging procedures use radiation?
X rays pass through the body to form pictures on film or on a computer or television monitor, which are viewed by a radiologist. If you have an x-ray test, it will be performed with a standard x-ray machine or with a more sophisticated x-ray machine called a CT or CAT scan machine.
In nuclear medicine procedures, a very small amount of radioactive material is inhaled, injected, or swallowed by the patient. If you have a nuclear medicine exam, a special camera will be used to detect energy given off by the radioactive material in your body and form a picture of your organs and their function on a computer monitor. A nuclear medicine physician views these pictures. The radioactive material typically disappears from your body within a few hours or days.
Do magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound use radiation?
MRI and ultrasound procedures do not use ionizing radiation. If you have either of these types of studies, you are not exposed to radiation.
5. The Downside of Diagnostic Imaging
- Reduce the number of CT exams by using other technologies (such as ultrasound or MRI) in cases where they would provide equal diagnostic quality.
- Limit the use of CT in healthy patients who would obtain little benefit (such as whole-body CT screening).
- Limit the use of repeat CT surveillance of patients in whom a diagnosis has already been made, when repeat scanning would lead to little change in their treatment.
- Track and collect information on radiation exposure for individual patients.
6. Doctors Order More Tests when They Benefit Financially: Ask If You Really Need that Test
Researchers from the Institute for Technology Assessment at the Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Radiology found that there was no mistaking that diagnostic imaging tests were being ordered far more than they deemed necessary. The question that begs to be answered is, “why?”
Many doctors referred their patients to imaging centers that were affiliated with their practice, or were even done by the doctor’s own staff. When a physician has such a close relationship with the provider conducting the imaging study, there is the possibility that the physician will benefit financially from ordering additional imaging studies.
- 7. Cumulative Exposure
- A single exposure at these diagnostic levels may not pose much risk to the patient.
- But when a patient has numerous tests over a period of time, the cumulative exposure may raise the level of risk.
- To minimize cumulative exposure, physicians should determine whether a procedure using medical radiation is necessary to achieve the diagnosis or whether an alternative imaging procedure may offer the same diagnostic benefit.