3 Reasons Why It Is Essential to Reduce X-Ray Dose in CT Scans
In many ways, CT scanners have made medicine safer than ever. Thanks to the superior quality of their imaging, they help physicians identify life-threatening conditions earlier in their progression, and they eliminate the need for more invasive procedures that come with their own risks. However, none of this means that CT scans are risk-free. The use of radiation comes with safety risks to patients, particularly of increasing the likelihood of cancer, and physicians committed to their patients’ best interests have a duty to take all available measures to reduce this risk. In CT scans, that means reducing X-ray dosage to the lowest effective level.
Make no mistake: The fact that risk exists does not mean that CT scans are unsafe or shouldn’t be used. Even the highest estimates of cancer incidence caused by CT scans are dwarfed by the natural incidence of fatal cancer, which affects 1 in 5 Americans. However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CT scan radiation has an increased chance of inducing cancer due to X-ray radiation exposure. The healthcare provider’s responsibility is, as always, to mitigate the risks as much as possible while maximizing this powerful technology’s benefits to patients’ health.
Today, most of American patients’ heightened exposure to radiation comes from two sources: CT scanning and nuclear imaging. The reason why CT scans are responsible for so much radiation is that they can deliver as much as 70 times the radiation of a traditional chest X-ray (70 mSv compared to 0.1 mSv). (The FDA estimates effective CT scan doses to range from 1 to 10 mSV). Furthermore, CT scans often require follow-up scanning, further increasing the total amount of radiation to which patients are exposed. This puts patients in nearly the same range of radiation exposure as some of the survivors of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even those survivors who were exposed to less than 50 mSv of radiation were found to have a “slight but significant” increase in cancer risk. Few studies have been conducted on the long-term effects of ionizing radiation on the human body, so the 1945 attacks remain the source of much of our knowledge in this area.
Another source of concern is the use of CT scans for pediatric patients. It has been established that children and adolescents who are exposed to high radiation doses to treat cancers including lymphoma are more likely to develop more cancers later on in life. However, the FDA has noted that the use of pediatric CT scanning is “rapidly growing,” and this set of patients undoubtedly deserves the utmost care and caution.
Fortunately, it is possible to achieve high-quality CT scan imaging at relatively low doses of radiation. AI technologies like PixelShine have shown to provide equal or higher image quality than traditional methods at lower doses of radiation. Given that such technologies can pay for themselves over time by extending the life and performance of older/refurbished CT scanners (another benefit of low-dose CT), these can be a worthwhile investment for many types of healthcare facilities. By adopting equipment that minimizes patients’ cancer risk from CT radiation and extending the lifetime of critical equipment, facilities can save money while also putting patient safety first.
Radiology Oncology Systems, Inc. specializes in affordable, refurbished CT scanners. We have been selling and installing them for over 20 years. With the addition of PixelShine as an upgrade option to any CT scanner (GE, Siemens, Philips, Toshiba/Cannon, Neusoft, Hitachi, and others), scanners can last even longer, image patients more safely, and improve image quality so that both radiologists and their patients benefit. In the era of COVID-19, reducing costs while securing patient safety is of greater importance than ever before, and ROS is proud to offer technologies that support facilities in achieving these goals.