Possible Dangers of CT Scans
Written by Faith Anderson on July 31, 2012
Researchers involved in the study observed about 1,000 patients with symptoms of chest or heart pain but with no other test results that already detected a heart attack. The study found that those who received a CT scan had the average length of their hospital stay reduced to 7.6 hours, which resulted in more patients being discharged directly from the emergency department (47% compared to 12% among patients who did not receive a CT scan). However, those who did receive a CT scan underwent more testing later and were exposed to higher levels of radiation. It also increased hospital bills by about $200, on average. The NEJM study comes on the heels of a report issued last month, in which U.S. researchers indicated that the use of CT scans has tripled over the last 15 years. In 1996, about 52 out of every 1,000 American adults received a CT scan every year. By 2010 however, that number had increased to 149 out of 1,000.
In November 2010, the FDA recommended that the radiation therapy industry implement changes to training and equipment in order to reduce the risk of radiation overdose for patients. This FDA recommendation came after a year-long investigation by the agency, in which federal regulators concluded that nearly all radiation exposure problems experienced by patients are due to operator error and are rarely caused by broken CT scanners. CT scan procedures and other forms of radiation therapy across the United States came under close scrutiny prior to the FDA recommendations after it was widely publicized that many patients have suffered radiation overexposure from CT scans performed improperly.