While imaging is an essential part of modern health care, it also can have side effects resulting from radiation. Because of this risk, capable health care providers order imaging such as CT scans only when necessary and order the lowest possible dose that will diagnose the problem. We trust hospitals and clinics to maintain the equipment, so it functions properly, and the technicians to follow established protocols in using it.
What Is a CT Scan?
A CT scan uses x-ray technology to create a 3-D image. A region of the body is x-rayed in slices, and these slices are put together by a computer into a picture. Doctors can look at an entire region at once, rather than see only one angle as with a traditional x-ray. Although there are distinct diagnostic advantages to a CT scan, patients are exposed to several times the radiation of a conventional x-ray because multiple x-rays are taken at one time.
Because CT scans inherently involve more radiation than other types of imaging, it is important that they are performed only when entirely necessary. Also, it is crucial that they are carried out correctly and at the lowest radiation dose that will yield a readable image.
Who Is at Risk of Radiation Overdose?
While the average person will not be harmed by a single CT scan that is performed according to existing medical protocols, there are some individuals who can get radiation overdose in just one scan. Elderly people, children, and individuals who are medically fragile can have effects from a single CT scan. Doctors and medical personnel are expected to make sound judgments and find alternate means of diagnosis when a CT scan presents potential harm.
Also, healthy people can get radiation overdose when too much radiation is used in a CT scan. All people can be harmed by radiation exposure in the case of repeated CT scans, which is why these tests should be used only when needed.
Results of Radiation Overdose
People who have been exposed to high levels of radiation may have a variety of symptoms. Damage to skin and tissues, often manifesting as burns, redness, or irritation, is often seen. Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and hair loss are other common symptoms. Also, people who have been exposed to unsafe levels of radiation have a very high risk of developing cancer and other malignancies in the future.
It is impossible to predict whether a person who has had a radiation overdose from a CT scan will have lifelong effects or get cancer. However, the short-term effects combined with the higher risk of future deadly illness are stressful and can cause a great deal of mental anguish.
When Is It Medical Malpractice?
While most people undergo CT scans for legitimate medical reasons, doctors are increasingly ordering them when they are not necessary or ordering them for people who are at high risk for radiation overdose. No one should be harmed by a routine test. Radiation overdose from a CT scan is almost always a result of medical malpractice.
Medical personnel who cause harm to patients should be identified so they cannot harm others. This is true whether it is a doctor who orders CT scans when it is not recommended or a technician who misuses CT machinery. The public trusts medical personnel to act in our best interest, and this should never be violated.