Aug 30, 2009
A new article published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that physicians may be overusing xray tests. The cumulative exposure to radiation that patients experience may be harmful and cause long term problems such as cancer. Unfortunately, there has been very little discussion with patients regarding the potentially harmful consequences of commonly ordered xray tests. Furthermore, physicians and patients will need to become more vigilant in determining that the benefits of x ray exams outweigh the detriment going forward. Question: has your doctor ever discussed the potential harm before you underwent and x ray??
Atlanta, GA - Medical imaging procedures expose many nonelderly patients to substantial doses of ionizing radiation, according to the results of a new study . Myocardial perfusion imaging alone accounts for 22% of the radiation dose from all study procedures, while computed-tomography (CT) scans of the abdomen, pelvis, and chest account for nearly 38%, report investigators.
"Our findings that in some patients worrisome radiation doses from imaging procedures can accumulate over time underscores the need to improve their use," write lead investigator Dr Reza Fazel (Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA) and colleagues. "Unlike the exposure of workers in healthcare and the nuclear industry, which can be regulated, the exposure of patients cannot be restricted, largely because of the inherent difficulty in balancing the immediate clinical need for these procedures, which is frequently substantial, against the stochastic risks of cancer that would not be evident for years, if at all."
The analysis, which studied 952 420 adults aged 18 to 64 years in five US cities, is published in the August 27, 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
During the study period, which ran from 2005 to 2007, 655 613 adults underwent at least one imaging procedure associated with radiation exposure. The mean effective dose was 2.4 mSv per person per year, although a wide distribution was noted. Moreover, the proportion of subjects undergoing procedures and their mean doses varied according to age, sex, and city. For example, approximately 50% of adults aged 18 to 34 years underwent a medical imaging procedure requiring radiation, whereas 86% of adults 60 to 64 years of age were sent for similar testing. Women also underwent imaging procedures significantly more often than men.