MONDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- The use of CT scans as a diagnostic tool is surging in emergency departments across the United States, new research indicates.
In the 13-year period leading up to 2007, CT scan use in ERs increased by nearly sixfold, the study team found.
The trend has raised concerns about the potential risks posed by more frequent exposure to the ionizing radiation emitted by CT scanners, they added.
Ionizing radiation can cause cancer, and federal experts warn that one way to protect yourself is to avoid unnecessary medical X-rays. In fact, the study pointed out, CT scans represent the largest source of medically related exposure to ionizing radiation in the United States.
However, study author Dr. David B. Larson, director of quality improvement in the department of radiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, said he was not surprised that CT use has been on the upswing in the nation's ERs, given that it is "an extremely valuable tool."
"But we found it remarkable that its use has increased so steadily and at such a high rate," he said. "It is behaving as if it is still in the early stages of growth."
Larson and his team report their observations in the Nov. 29 issue of Radiology. They are also slated to discuss the findings Monday at the annual meting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), in Chicago.
CT scans are not, of course, a new technology, having been first introduced into hospital settings in the mid-1970s.
The current analysis focused on data collected by the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, which was conducted between 1995 and 2007.
By reviewing statistics covering more than 30,000 ER visits per year over the survey's 13-year time-frame, Larson and his colleagues found that CT exams had rocketed upwards from just 2.7 million in 1995 to 16.2 m
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