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December 15th, 2009
05:40 PM ET

Radiation and CT Scans explained

Program note: Tonight, Dr. Gupta and Anderson discuss the recent studies linking overuse of CT Scans to cancer. Tune in at 10pm EST to get the latest.

What is computed tomography?
Computed tomography (CT) is a diagnostic procedure that uses special x-ray equipment to obtain cross-sectional pictures of the body. The CT computer displays these pictures as detailed images of organs, bones, and other tissues. This procedure is also called CT scanning, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography (CAT).

What can a person expect during the CT procedure?
During a CT scan, the person lies very still on a table. The table slowly passes through the center of a large x-ray machine. The person might hear whirring sounds during the procedure. People may be asked to hold their breath at times, to prevent blurring of the pictures.

Often, a contrast agent, or “dye,” may be given by mouth, injected into a vein, given by enema, or given in all three ways before the CT scan is done. The contrast dye can highlight specific areas inside the body, resulting in a clearer picture.

The length of the procedure depends on the size of the area being x-rayed; CT scans take from 15 minutes to 1 hour to complete.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Medical News
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Mo

    You would think that the machines would have safety limits built into them so that you wouldn't need to rely on a tech to watch an audit. You have limits on water heaters so the water doesn't get scalding hot. Seems like a very simple safety mechanism is missing! Do I hear class action lawsuit?

    December 16, 2009 at 1:17 am |
  2. Cheryl

    I find this finding so disturbing. After a malignant tumor in his leg at age 14, my son had CT scans of the chest on a regular basis for ten years. Three years ago, at age 33, he was diagnosed with an very rare carcinoma of the broncus tube leading to partial lung removal. This has been followed up with more periodic CT scans. It is so unsettling to know that we thought we were doing everything right to keep him healthy and cancer-free only to find out that "doing the right thing" may be the cause for his second cancer.

    December 15, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  3. S.Chonka, Arizona

    I had a CT scan, 3 x-rays and a gallbladder scan all in one day last week. Okay, now what? Is there a way of erasing the potential danger of over radition exposure?

    December 15, 2009 at 10:51 pm |
  4. S Fisher

    Any patient having a CT scan should ask if the CT Technologist performing the scan is certfird to do so. The preferred credentials are given by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists in the United States. The advanced certification exam specific to performing CT scans is preferred, but unfortunately, is not required by most states.
    The American Society of Radiologic Technolgists is working hard on legislation that will require education and certification of technologists performing radiologic procedures.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  5. Elisabeth Trang

    Although I do not believe in taking those kinds of tests, C T scan in my son's case has saved him. It helped Texas Childrens Hospital discover that he had brain tumor and saved his life. He had only a 5% chance of survival. He had surgery a week after the scan was done. He went in for a pneumonia bout. Luckily, the operation was a success.

    December 15, 2009 at 10:22 pm |
  6. Kathy

    wow! I can imagine the lawsuits coming out of this one if what you are saying is true and people find out!!

    December 15, 2009 at 10:11 pm |
  7. A. Smith, Oregon

    Excess ionizing radiation via any modern xray equipment is completely and totally unacceptable. With a CT device, it is only occurring thru a complete and total lapse in the duty's of the managing xray technicians and those that supervise them.

    CT Systems have a full radiation audit control built into them. The Xray Tech and Supervisor can bring up the audits of all xray settings, how much ionizing radiation was absorbed for each procedure and for each patient. The supervisors should be doing that daily, if not that is malpractice clear and simple.

    There is absolutely no excuse for multiple excess radiation patients period. It can only occur with clear and gross negligence by the staff.

    December 15, 2009 at 6:30 pm |