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Study Downplays Risk of CT Scans
Date:5/1/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 1 (HealthDay News) -- A new study of young people who underwent CT scans suggests that their risk of dying from a condition related to their radiation exposure is far less than dying from the original disease they faced.

The study has weaknesses, and one specialist said it confirms his belief that the scans are safe but doesn't directly prove it. Still, the lead author of the study said it puts the debate over the safety of CT scans into perspective.

"We're trending toward the camp that says you should err on the side of scanning rather than not, because the chance of dying from one to two scans is very small," said study author Rob Zondervan, a medical student at the University of New England. "More often than not, patients should be getting that CT scan because the risk of the underlying cause is higher than from radiation."

Doctors use CT scans to look for signs of trouble in the body from a variety of causes, including cancer, heart, abdominal and lung problems, and trauma from accidents or other injuries. In some cases, patients may get multiple CT scans, even in one day, because doctors are looking for problems in different organs.

Dr. Carl Schultz, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine, said physicians probably order CT scans too much because they're afraid of missing something. "There is no acceptable miss-rate other than zero," he said, "so there's tremendous pressure to do these scans."

In the new study, Zondervan and colleagues examined what happened to more than 23,000 patients aged 18 to 35 who underwent a chest or abdominal CT scan from 2003 to 2007. They all got the scans at three hospitals in Boston.

Of those who got chest CTs, 5 percent to 50 percent of the 8,133 died within a few years, with the rate of death rising sharply in those who got more than one or two scans. The re
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