Thursday, December 27, 2007

CT Scan Risks

If you are as concerned about CT scans and the dangers of ionized radiation as I am, this is a short excerpt of an article I recently purchased online. I'm not advocating that people should deny themselves or loved ones from receiving CT scans (CAT scan) in the case of dire emergencies; however, I believe radiologists and the health practitioners need to take more care when administering CT scans to infants in particular, and also in general due to their high radiation level compared to conventional X-rays. Furthermore, patients have the right to be informed before giving consent as to what those risks really are, and what the injected contrast material is (ionized radiation), without being belittled and bullied into giving consent. I speak from personal experience and hope to spare you from the same. The full text and all links to references are available at the original source of this article which can be found here.

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Current Opinion in Pediatrics:Volume 18(3)June 2006pp 231-233
Issues of computerized tomography scans in children and implications for emergency care

[Emergency and critical care pediatrics]
Klig, Jean E.
Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA
Correspondence to Jean E. Klig MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Boston Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA; E-mail: Jean.Klig@bmc.org
Abbreviations: ALARA, as low as reasonably achievable; CT, computed tomography; ED, emergency department

...It is estimated that, of the roughly 600 000 abdominal and head CT scans performed annually in children under 15 years old in the USA, approximately 500 children might die from cancer that was caused by the radiation of the CT scan [4]. For a 1-year-old child who undergoes an abdominal CT scan, the lifetime risk of fatal cancer from radiation exposure during the study may be as high as 1 in 550; for a head CT scan it is 1 in 1500 [4]. Current estimates include only fatal cancers, and thus the overall risks of cancer (fatal and nonfatal) due to CT-related radiation exposure are not known. As the effects of radiation are cumulative, those children who undergo more than one CT scan in their lifetime are likely to have an even higher risk of cancer. The overall risks of CT scan-related radiation exposure are largely theoretical at this time, but reflect a `Pandora's box' of issues that are crucial to the care of children. New data continue to emerge [11] that support current notions that 'no amount of radiation exposure is considered absolutely safe' [2], including the low-level radiation exposure of pediatric CT scans...(edited)...CT scans are a powerful clinical tool for the care of children in the ED, but the proposed risks of this technology cannot be overemphasized. What can be done? An immediate goal is to avoid a CT scan when it is feasible to rely on clinical decisions and/or other imaging modalities such as sonography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in lieu of a CT scan [3,10,14]...(edited) Although there is no need to panic over the proposed risks of current CT scan technology [10], we must proceed with caution and strive to limit its use. The issues of CT scans in children introduce a critical opportunity for greater education and collaboration with the radiology community; the future of our patients depends on it.

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.