Computerized Tomography, or the popular CT scan poses more health risk from radiation compared to other imaging tests like ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), studies suggest.
Ultrasound and MRIs are always preferable to CT scan procedures that use ionizing radiation and its exposure could result in diseases including cancer
Doctors should consider using ultrasound procedures or MRI, before prescribing CT scans and other tests that use radiation, according to a research published in the latest issue of New England Journal of Medicine.
The benefits of CT scan should be weighed against the possible risks before prescribing the imaging procedure as the use of CT scan is rapidly increasing leaving the patients open to the danger of cancer from cumulative radiation exposures.
Not only CT scans, even very low-dose radiation from medical imaging procedures has been linked to cancer. While medical practitioners and other health-care restrict their contact with radiation, patients don’t enjoy the same luxury, most often.
The study explored over 655,600 people who had to undergo at least one radiation imaging procedure. They received an average radiation dose of 2.4 millisieverts, or mSv, each year. Fewer than 3 mSv a year is considered low, while up to 20 mSv is moderate, up to 50 mSv is high and more than 50 mSv is very high.
The procedure that expose patients to the greatest amount of radiation was nuclear cardiac stress testing – an average of 15.6 mSv.
CT scans of the abdomen exposes the body to about 8 mSv. The average radiation dose for a mammogram is about 0.4 mSv.
CT scans and other radiation imaging procedures not only put a cost burden in terms of the dollars, but also in terms of the radiation, researchers pointed out.
Cumulative doses of radiation exposure over a lifetime may be much higher. Over a third of individuals who received moderate and high effective doses were under the age of 50, because the long-term risks of developing cancer from radiation will be higher in younger individuals.
CT scans use several X-ray beams to be sent through the body simultaneously from different angles. Unlike ordinary X-rays that send a single X-ray through the body.A computer processes the results, displaying them as a two-dimensional picture shown on a monitor. Naturally, T scans are far more detailed than ordinary X-rays. The information from the two-dimensional computer images can be reconstructed to produce three-dimensional images by some modern CT scanners. They can be used to produce virtual images that show what a surgeon would see during an operation.
CT scans have already allowed doctors to inspect the inside of the body without having to operate or perform unpleasant examinations. CT scanning has also proven invaluable in pinpointing tumours and planning treatment with radiotherapy.
CT imaging is particularly good at testing for bleeding in the brain, for aneurysms (when the wall of an artery swells up), brain tumours and brain damage. It can also find tumours and abscesses throughout the body and is used to assess types of lung disease.
In addition, the CT scanner is used to look at internal injuries such as a torn kidney, spleen or liver; or bony injury, particularly in the spine. CT scanning can also be used to guide biopsies and therapeutic pain procedures.
Patient receiving an abdomen scan, for example, will be asked not to eat for six hours before the test. They will be given a drink containing gastrografin, an aniseed flavoured X-ray dye, 45 minutes before the procedure. This makes the intestines easier to see on the pictures.