Healthwise: CT Scans and Radiation

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

August 25, 2010

CT scans are commonly done at Martha Jefferson Hospital and doctors say the machine is revolutionizing medicine.

"One of the latest advances have been using X-rays with CT scans, which take 3-D pictures inside the body and do much better than a plain X-ray examination," said radiologist, Dr. Jonathan Ciambotti.

With the advances in CT technology, more is being done on patients. However, doctors maintain the most important thing is to minimize radiation exposure.

"The question is, is radiation exposure bad for you? At which level is it bad for you? The big thing is, does radiation cause cancer and how does that all work? The answer is unknown," said Dr. Ciambotti.

To be conservative, doctors assume there is a cancer risk associated with radiation exposure, and to ensure the impact is minimized, Martha Jefferson Hospital joined forces with Image Gently.

"We operate under the principle called ALARA: As Low As Reasonably Allowable," said Dr. Ciambotti.

Doctors give the lowest possible dose of radiation to get the information they need in the CT scan.

"The way to minimize radiation exposure is only give tests that are medically necessary, and this should be thoroughly reviewed with your physician. Also, use alternative tests if you can, such as ultra sound or MRI, neither of which use radiation," said Dr. Ciambotti.

Part of the Image Gently program requires special care for children. Doctors will adjust the settings on the CT scanning machine to decrease the amount of radiation.

"Theoretically [radiation] is more harmful to children than it is adults. Children's bodies are still growing and developing, and therefore their cells are likely more susceptible to radiation than adults," said Dr. Ciambotti.

If you require a CT scan, doctors say patients should make sure the facility is committed to Image Gently and is accredited by the American College of Radiology. Martha Jefferson Hospital is committed and accredited.

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