Author(s): Hall EJ, Brenner DJ
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Abstract In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the number of CT scans performed, both in the US and the UK, which has fuelled concern about the long-term consequences of these exposures, particularly in terms of cancer induction. Statistics from the US and the UK indicate a 20-fold and 12-fold increase, respectively, in CT usage over the past two decades, with per caput CT usage in the US being about five times that in the UK. In both countries, most of the collective dose from diagnostic radiology comes from high-dose (in the radiological context) procedures such as CT, interventional radiology and barium enemas; for these procedures, the relevant organ doses are in the range for which there is now direct credible epidemiological evidence of an excess risk of cancer, without the need to extrapolate risks from higher doses. Even for high-dose radiological procedures, the risk to the individual patient is small, so that the benefit/risk balance is generally in the patients' favour. Concerns arise when CT examinations are used without a proven clinical rationale, when alternative modalities could be used with equal efficacy, or when CT scans are repeated unnecessarily. It has been estimated, at least in the US, that these scenarios account for up to one-third of all CT scans. A further issue is the increasing use of CT scans as a screening procedure in asymptomatic patients; at this time, the benefit/risk balance for any of the commonly suggested CT screening techniques has yet to be established.
This article was published in Br J Radiol
and referenced in Emergency Medicine: Open Access