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Patients Rarely Advised of CT Scan Risks

High powered x-rays, commonly referred to as CT scans, provide doctors with much clearer images and can lead to better accuracy when making a diagnosis. However, the scans also can expose a patient to up to 100 times more radiation than a standard x-ray. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, indicates that patients are rarely advised of the possible health risks involved when receiving a CT scan, including increased risk of cancer. The majority of patients also believed that the final decision to have the scans belonged to their doctors. The JAMA study involved nearly 300 patients who received CT scans at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center from November through December 2011. Results of the survey indicated that only 35 percent of the patients had discussed the risks of a CT scan with their physicians. 62 percent of the patients reported that the final decision to have the scan was made by their doctor. Only 17 percent reported being involved in the decision making process. The numbers are alarming when compared to the health risks posed by the scans. An unrelated study by the National Cancer Institute estimated approximately 29,000 future cancers related to CT scans done in 2007. In that year alone, there were nearly 72 million total CT scans performed in the U.S.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, online March 4, 2013.