Friday, December 29, 2006

Most Doctors Don't Know the Radiation Level of CAT Scans

Using extended doses of encircling X-rays, CAT scans give a detailed look inside your body,
revealing not only bones but soft tissue and blood vessels, as well. According to the health site, over 70,000 places around the world offer CAT scans to detect and diagnose
tumors, heart disease, osteoporosis, blood clots, spinal fractures, nerve damage, and lots of other
problems. Because it can uncover so much, its use has become widespread and continues to rise.
In fact, healthy people are getting scans just to see if anything might be wrong, kind of like a
routine check-up.
The downside, and it's a doozy, is that a CAT scan jolts you with 100 to 250 times the dose of
radiation that you get from a chest X-ray. What's even more alarming is that most doctors
apparently don't know this.
An emergency physician from the Yale School of Medicine surveyed 45 of his colleagues about
the pros and cons of CAT scans. A mere nine of them said that they tell patients about the
radiation. This might be just as well, in a weird way, since most of them had absolutely no clue
about how much radiation CAT scans give off. When asked to compare the blast from a chest X-
ray to the blast from a CAT scan, only 22 percent of the docs got it right. As for the other three-
quarters, The Medical Post relates:
Three of the doctors said the dose was either less than or equal to a chest X-ray.
Twenty (44%) of the doctors said the dose was greater than a chest X-ray, but less than 10
times the dose. Just over one-fifth of the doctors (22%) said the radiation dose from a CT
was more than 10 times that of an X-ray but less than 100 times the dose.
Only ten of them knew that a single CAT scan equals 100 to 250 chest X-rays, while two thought
that the scans were even worse than that.
Feel free to give your doc a pop quiz during your next office visit.

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