In a new study published in the JAMA this week, a group of scientists from the Mayo Clinic and Germany investigated the amount of radiation caused by computed tomography (CT) scans. Conclusion: the median amount of radiation from ONE heart CT scan is equivalent to 600 chest x-rays!

The actual radiation exposure for each patient depends on body weight, heart rhythm, and scan length and type. However, the study also found that different techniques that can reduce radiation exposure, such as ‘sequential scanning’ and ‘electrocardiographically controlled tube current modulation’, are not always widely used. The study was inconclusive as to whether the techniques to reduce radiation were not used because clinicians are unaware of the high level of radiation exposure which results from CT scans.

Another related concern discussed in a JAMA editorial is that CT scanner sales have tripled in the past two years – mostly to doctors. And since these expensive machines need to be used many times to make the investment worthwhile, people are wondering if CT scans are being overprescribed and overused.

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