Is the Threat of High-Tech Imaging Machines Raising Concerns
For Detroit residents Henry Ford Health Systems has issued statement on their CT Scan Saftey
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association printed study conducted by researchers at John Hopkins Medical School, there seems to be major concerns with radiation exposure.
Researchers from John Hopkins had reviewed records from a nationwide data base of emergency room visits. These records indicated the rates of MRI and CT scans done on people with injury related conditions has not double but actually tripled over a span of nine years. Imaging scans which were done for the purpose of conditions such as spinal fractures had showed minimal increase in use. This is advocating that a large portion of scans done on people were not required.
Researcher Frederick Korely states it was just not a small increase that was observed. It was an immense increase without a associated increase in diagnosing life-threatening illness. This indicates that there is a possible amount of overuse or use that does not produce any clinical outcomes.
The past couple of years have brought about concerns from medical experts and regulators of the extensive use of radiation scanning technology. Cases of radiation overdose have been publicized citing faulty scanning procedures.
The National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurement just last year released a report noting that evidence has revealed that Americans receive seven times greater amounts of radiation from diagnostic scans than what was received in 1980.
Researcher Korley did note that in some cases there are benefits in giving a patient a scan. Such as to rule out brain bleeding in a person with head trauma. This allows peace of mind for the patient and assurance for the attending practitioner that there is no immediate life threat present.
Radiation from Cardiac CAT scans
Cardiac CT scans are very valuable in an emergency. Vital diagnostic information can be received about coronary blood flow which can save a life. Those are the times we require technology.
Then comes the not so valuable medical times. These machines actually produce a major amount of radiation exposure for the patient which equals in a equivalent value 750 chest x-rays. Another main problem in usage of these scans are practitioners. Some recommend these as a common practice for patients who are asymptomatic. Radiation exposure from these machines can lead to breaks in the DNA which could encourage the onset of cancer.
This could actually mean that some members of the medical community are part of creating an amount of cancer cases due to overuse of these diagnostic tests which exposes the patient to high doses of radiation.
Risks of scans
It has been mentioned by scientists, health professionals and even media sources that CAT scans do pose a health risk. Yet, there are still people and health professionals that are still unaware of the health risks involved leaving lives being endangered unnecessarily. CAT scans do hold a prominent role in medicine as a valuable diagnostic tool. Unfortunately, without any boundaries in place they are being used far too often. The main goal of the scan in the use of cardiac cat scan is to diagnose potential dangerous and even fatal heart disease. However, at the same time the up rise in cancer cases just possibly are being created.
The New England Journal of Medicine had their say on these scans in a report. Their report had stated in America alone there are more than 62 million CT scans being done on patients each year this is in comparison to three million in 1980. The article also notes that radiation emitted from these scans cause strands in DNA to break. This results in alterations associated to the development of cancer. The researchers had suggested that in excess of twenty million adults are being exposed to possibly to needless radiation. That in itself is suggesting that there is a need for guidelines in CAT scans to reduce the number of risks for cancer.
64 slice scan
The 64 slice scan is also available and had received FDA approval. This scan lets people walk into a scanning center and in less than one hour have detailed pictures of their whole heart or entire body. This scanner is capable of taking thousands of images of the heart in a matter of seconds. This lets the cardiologist view detailed images of the heart and its functioning ability.
Benefits of CAT scan
There are cases in which CAT scans are required. Such as a patient being rushed into a emergency room with massive chest pains. The scanners allow for a very quick diagnoses of whether the patient has blocked arteries which are causing the heart attack, blood clots in the lungs or even dissection of aorta. That instance there is no doubt among anyone that these scanners are essential a vital life saving tool.
Radiation dangers from scans
There are a great number of issues with the extensive use of CAT scans in people without symptoms. The major issue is radiation does produce collective effects on the body. Unlike chest x-rays that give off small amounts of radiation, these scans deliver significant amounts. Radiation exposure has been demonstrated to increase risk of cancers such as breast or leukemia.
We expose ourselves daily to some radiation such as that from the sun or even rocks in the ground. These exposure which are commonly from nature most of the time are unavoidable. Radiation is measured in units called millisieverts(mSv) and we are able to compare the amounts from nature to radiation from man-made sources like medical devices.
In examples a chest x-ray gives 0.02 mSv which equals 2.4 days of natural exposure. A CAT scan of the abdomen gives 10.0 mSV which equals 500 chest x-rays or 3.3 years of natural exposure from nature. This does indicate a major difference in the rate of exposure.
In June of 2007, an article in the New York Times had cited that studies had shown America’s lifetime dose per person of radiation had increased 600% between the years 1980 and 2006, with the majority of exposure being from diagnostic imaging.
The World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences all have classified X-rays as carcinogens due to the fact that they have been associated to leukemia and cancers of the breast lungs and thyroid.
There is no safe lower allotment of radiation exposure. All radiation is conceivably dangerous. Everyone is different and so is their rate of exposure.
Physician statement noted in journal
Two Canadian physicians are stating that CT scans and alike imaging which are being ordered in increased rates very often should have physicians ordered to inform patients about the possible risks of cancer from the radiation.
Dr’s. Mark Baerlocher, radiology resident from Toronto and Allan Detsky, former physician-in-chief at Mount Sinai Hospital state that a mandatory program would be much better to inform patients of the dangers which are very often not revealed to patients currently.
The paper on these views were printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association last month. This makes it the most powerful statement concerning medical radiation exposure. The exposure rate has been in ongoing debate over the last few years.
In the paper they state the medical profession cannot rely on the industry, government or legal system in solving the debate of whether to inform patients or how to inform patients about radiation risks. A program of mandatory informed consent is required
The physicians are stating patients should be informed about the risks of these tests and procedures that emit high levels of radiation such as in CAT scans, many nuclear medicine exams and imaging used very frequently in minimally invasive surgery.
CT is a very valuable part of medicine tools especially within the last few years. It does provide remarkably clear images that aide in the diagnosis of cancer, brain injuries and other life-threatening problems.
The downside is CT imaging has the likelihood of producing as much as 500 times the amount of radiation than an X-ray. In Canada, experts estimate 20% of scans ordered are not required. Studies in the United States do advocate the risk of cancer from just one single scan can range from one in 2,000 to one in three hundred. The range is dependent upon the dosage and other factors involved.
In another study conducted it had revealed that less than 10% of patients are informed about the risks.
Other physicians views indicate the better approach is in educating family and emergency room physicians on which tests are more vital on patients to avoid unnecessary ones.
CEO of the Ontario Association of Medical Radiation Technologists states he holds the belief that there is ignorance among physicians, both generalists and specialists, on radiation doses linked with diagnostic imaging and health effects.
He believes making it mandatory to inform patients of the risks involved, would be hard to enforce making it counterproductive.
.The doctors admit there is room for speculation on if low doses of radiation do in fact cause cancer but the cancer risks are based on the best available information and should not be dismissed.
Helpful FDA tips
Before having any imaging tests done ask the practitioner how it will aide in the diagnosis. Find out if there are other options available that could have lower risks but still give the needed assessment.
If your practitioner explains why it is necessary then it is advisable not to refuse.
If there is not a real need for any type of scanning such as CAT or even X-rays then do not have one done.