“It was a bit surprising to see how high the five-year mortality rate was in this group,” Dr. Lee said. “To put it in context, the average young adult has only a 1 percent chance of dying in the next five years.”
The most common reasons for exam were trauma and cancer for chest CT and abdominal pain and trauma and cancer for abdominopelvic CT. While many of the patients who underwent CT were cancer patients with a bleak prognosis, Dr. Lee pointed out that the major differences in risk were evident in the other groups who had CT, such as those suffering from trauma, abdominal pain and difficulty breathing.
“When we subtracted out cancer patients from the data set, the risk of death in the study group ranged from 2.5 to 5 percent—still well above the risk in the general population,” she said.
Dr. Lee and colleagues also found that the patients who were scanned only one or two times represented the overwhelming proportion of exams.
“This finding shows that radiation reduction efforts should also focus on patients who are very rarely scanned, and not just those who are scanned repeatedly,” Dr. Lee said.
Dr. Lee noted that the study group was imaged between 2003 and 2007, before radiation dose awareness and reduction programs like Image Wisely and Image Gently took effect. She said that the risk of radiation-induced cancer from CT likely would be lower today, making the difference in mortality even more pronounced.
“We’re not saying be complacent about the radiation risk from CT,” Dr. Lee added. “But these people being imaged might have been in a motor vehicle accident, or have a perforated appendix or life-threatening cancer, and we’re trying to gain information from scans that can help them. That’s the part that gets lost in the debate.”
“Body CT Scanning in Young Adults: Examination Indications, Patient Outcomes, and Risk of Radiation-induced Cancer.” Collaborating with Dr. Lee and Robert L
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