CT scans and the news

Cut to Cure and Rangel have both commented on the “I’ll get a CT a year to screen for disease” fad/industry that has sprung up recently, and the concerns that the radiation dose of total body CT’s, especially repetitively, could be harmful.

Interestingly, a couple of days ago a colleague ordered a CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis on a patient. The patient refused the CT, citing the recent article in the paper about “the risks of radiation from CT’s”, and no amount of explanation would assuage this patients’ fear (irrational as I think they are). The patient said they’d bring the article up so we could read it, as we were obviously unaware of it, with not just a little condecension. The treating doc and nurse both relayed that we’d read it, and didn’t need to read again. Attempts to explain why this CT was needed were made, to no avail. The patient left without getting the CT to look for acute disease.

Yes, CT’s deliver radiation to the body. A whole-body CT is pretty rare in acute-care medicine (except in the multiply injured trauma patient), so although I think about radiation exposure, my worries are always acute-injury-or-illness diagnosis, which allows me to justify the risks involved.

I hope that patient gets their CT in the very near future, and I don’t know how we’d practice medicine without them. Well, I do know. We’d get 1970′s medicine. Anyone want that?