CT / CAT Scan - minimize radiation exposure

Q: Will I be exposed to radiation when I have a CT scan?

Q: Can I minimize my exposure to radiation?
A: YES!!!!!

describe the imageBoth patients and physicians are aware of potential increased health risks associated with radiation exposure during diagnostic CT examinations. Some studies suggest that there is an increased risk of cancer in patients who undergo CT scanning, but in actuality, the risk of developing cancer from a CT scan is very small. Nevertheless good medical practice dictates steps are taken to minimize radiation exposure for patients.

As a patient you should be aware there are strategies that reduce radiation exposure while still providing a highly accurate diagnosis. Use these facts to educate yourself, and then ask your doctor questions to ensure a safe scan.

1. Make sure the CT study ordered is medically necessary. Ask if other tests such as an MRI or ultrasound are more appropriate.

2. Be sure CT protocols are reviewed on a regular basis. This ensures the studies performed are state of the art with the lowest possible radiation dose. For example, a recent change to acceptable kidney imaging protocols results in a 33% decrease in radiation dose.

3. Confirm with your doctor that the CT scanner is equipped with dose reduction software. This allows for reduced dosage while maintaining excellent image quality. The software performs post-processing on studies resulting in image enhancement. A program of this type can result in approximately 30% radiation dose reduction. If the CT scanner recommended is not equipped with this software, you have the choice to go to one that does.

4. Is there adequate shielding to protect other parts of the body? Aggressive shielding programs can further reduce dose exposure. For example, placing radiation absorption shielding material over radiosensitive organs such as the eyes and breasts can protect these tissues from exposure while maintaining diagnostic accuracy.

5. Accounting for lifetime exposure to radiation is very important. It is imperative to avoid unnecessary repeat or repetitive examinations. It is essential that the results of CT scans are communicated effectively and images are made available to the referring physician. This will also result in a more cost-effective work-up. Patients should be aware of their scan history and convey this information to their doctor. Many CT providers maintain records of the radiation dose patients receive during their CT scans. This data needs to be monitored carefully. Ask and keep track of it for your own health.

As awareness of the potential risks of radiation exposure through a CT scans increases you can help manage your healthcare and reduce your risk by asking the right questions and monitoring the quality, necessity and safety of your CT scan.  

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