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Overuse of medical radiation

Pittsburgh patients should be made aware that radiation used for medical purposes may simply be overused. Though use of radiation can often reveal a number of medical problems, it can damage DNA and create risks of cancer sometimes in the future.

This problem has been exasperated in the last few years due to the frequent prescribing of CT scans. One CT scan can deliver as much as 500 times more radiation than the ordinary X-ray. Such CT scans are now believed to account for a small (but significant) percentage of cancers.

There has been a call by a number of radiologists for reducing the number of CT scans that are performed. One radiologist stated that at least 1 in 10 patients are receiving "very high radiation exposures" due to medical scans. This radiologist felt that both doctors and patients had to be more familiar with the risks that come about because of such scans.

Unfortunately, many new radiological imaging procedures have not been thoroughly tested concerning risks or benefits. And patients are often subject to a number of such scans without anyone looking closely at how much exposure the patient has already experienced.

Though legislation has been proposed to limit the amount of scans performed, it's difficult to say how effective any such laws would actually be. Lawsuits brought by medical malpractice attorneys may dissuade hospitals from continuing such practices, however.

There are many reasons why hospitals overuse such equipment - and often the reasons have nothing to do with medical necessity. Doctors and hospitals often want to show-off new equipment, or recoup costs for such equipment that is bound to be extremely expensive. Hospitals also do charge extensively for every scan that is performed.

Source: The New York Times, "Medical Radiation Soars, With Risks Often Overlooked," by Jane E. Brody, August 20, 2012

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