CT research findings – Massachusetts General HospitalPublished on February 7, 2013.
A long-term analysis of nearly 22,000 young adults undergoing CT scans shows that they are at far greater risk of dying from underlying disease than from radiation-induced cancer, according to a study in Radiology.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that among patients getting chest CT scans, 7.1% died during the study’s 5.5-year follow-up period; during their lifetimes, this same population would see 0.1% of total deaths from radiation-induced cancer from CT scanning. The results were less dramatic for abdominal CT patients, with 3.9% of the patients dying during the follow-up period, with CT again contributing 0.1% to the total lifetime death rate (Radiology, February 5, 2013).
The results place the risk-benefit analysis of CT scans into a more clinically relevant context than past studies, lead author Susanna Lee and colleagues wrote. Most models that estimate CT radiation-induced cancer assume that the patient is in perfect health and will remain alive for decades required for the predicted radiation-induced latency period. These assumptions will need to be reconsidered, they wrote.
Moreover, CT risks are lower now that typical doses have been reduced to one-third to one-half of those used during the study period.
If you need a CT scan the risks of the underlying disease dwarf any potential radiation risks, and patients should not refuse medical imaging on the basis of radiation fears.