Scan-happy Americans better wake up to radiation risk

| 1 Comment

A study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine looks deeper into the radiation risks from medical imaging scans.

Key quotes on the study in a New York Times story:

"These procedures have a cost, not just in terms of dollars, but in terms of radiation risk," said the study's lead author.

"I think the central driver is more about culture than anything else," co-author Dr. Harlan Krumholz said. "People use imaging instead of examining the patient; they use imaging instead of talking to the patient. Patients should be asking the question: 'Do I really need this test? Is the information in this test going to help in the decision-making process?' "

In an editorial accompanying the paper, Dr. Michael S. Lauer, director of prevention and epidemiology at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, called for large clinical trials that would assess whether the scans improve care and lead to better outcomes for patients.

"Were we to insist that all, or nearly all, procedures be studied in well-designed trials, we could answer many critical clinical questions," Dr. Lauer wrote.

Until then, patients and physicians should discuss the risk of the tests and keep close track of the overall radiation dose that patients are receiving, he wrote, adding, "We have to think and talk explicitly about the elements of danger in exposing our patients to radiation."

1 Comment

Thanks for the post on the radiation risks of scans! Eight years after finishing treatment for Hodgkin's Lymphoma I had to finally refuse any more CT scans ordered by my oncologist. The odds of the Hodgkin's returning at this point are basically zip, but the odds of all those scans coupled with the initial radiation sparking another cancer are pretty decent. This was the first time I've ever felt like a medical procedure was being ordered more out of routine and revenue than out of need. Scan-happy indeed!

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Schwitzer published on August 27, 2009 9:52 AM.

Health care decision-making can be distorted by how risk/benefit data are presented was the previous entry in this blog.

CBS promotes John McEnroe as prostate expert without disclosing pharma funding is the next entry in this blog.

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