Radiation Exposure from CT Scans Is Reportedly Higher Than Expected

New Studies Warn of Potential Cancer Risks from Computerized Tomography Radiation

Radiation exposure in computerized tomography (CT scans) may be more than previously reported, possibly leading to increased cases of radiation-related cancer and cancer mortalities, according to new findings.

As recently detailed in the Archives of Internal Medicine, two separate studies explored cancer incidences and deaths as related to CT scans, which involve shooting an x-ray beam through the body and using a computer to reformat the image into a cross section of internal organs, bone, soft tissue, blood vessels or other anatomy.

The first study examined the radiation doses in the 11 most common types of diagnostic CT scans, finding that radiation exposure was as low as 2 microsieverts (mSv) in some CT procedures and as high as 31mSv for a multiphase abdomen and pelvis CT scan.

This study also noted that median CT scan radiation doses were four times higher than their indications.

In the second study, researchers utilized different types of data to estimate age-specific risk for cancer with each CT scan type, ultimately suggesting that approximately 29,000 future cancer cases could occur as a result of CT scans in 2007 alone.

Roughly 35 percent of these potential cancer cases were estimated to occur in people who had CT scans performed on them when they were 35 to 54 years old, with CT angiography and CT imaging of the abdomen, pelvis, chest and head associated with greater risks of developing cancer.

According to an introductory editorial to these two studies, more than 19,500 CT scans are performed in the United States on a daily basis.

One benefit of CT scans is that they provide excellent bony detail, with such imaging possibly used for back pain caused by specific conditions like lumbar disc herniation and lumbar spinal stenosis.

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