Despite being a life-saving diagnostic tool, CT scanners are estimated to cause around 6,000 cancers each year in the United States, roughly half of them fatal. Several surveys show that medical professionals and patients lack a clear understanding of the risks inherent with CT doses. In a recent report, ECRI (www.ecri.org
), a nonprofit healthcare research organization, recommends more attention be paid to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by radiation doses.
ECRI's guidance article explains the radiation risks of CT and discusses how they compare with other risks in and out of healthcare. ECRI also outlines ways in which doses can be kept to the necessary minimum. According to ECRI, the potential of CT to increase the number of cancers is a public health concern, especially in younger patients and everyone involved in referring patients for CT scans, as well as those responsible for the studies, should understand the risks and how to moderate them.
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ECRI recommends several steps that healthcare facilities should take in order to address the problem. They include eliminating unnecessary CT use, raising referring physicians' awareness of the issues, considering alternative diagnostic tools when appropriate, optimizing imaging protocols, and monitoring x-ray doses. Exams are justifiable says ECRI, as long as the radiation risks are appropriate for the diagnosis. But, if healthcare professionals are not educated about the dose risks, the appropriate precautions may not be taken.
For information on purchasing the February 2007 issue of Health Devices or for information about Health Devices System, membership, contact ECRI by mail at 5200 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting, PA 19462-1298, USA; by telephone at (610) 825-6000, ext. 5891; by e-mail at communications(at)ecri.org; or by fax at (610) 834-1275. ECRI's European office can be contacted at info(at)ecri.org.uk, ECRI's Asia- Pacific office can be contacted at asiapacific(at)ecri.org, and ECRI's Middle Eastern office can be contacted at middleeast(at)ecri.org.