CT Scan Risk: Patients Rarely Warned Of Dangers

Survey results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association of Internal Medicine revealed less than one-third of the patients polled were thoroughly warned of the possible risks and decision options associated with CT scans.

Computerized tomography (CT scans) provide an image thorough a series of high-powered X-ray views captured from different vantages, and render a cross-sectional image of targeted bones and soft tissue. A CT scan can be used to visualize nearly all parts of the body.

The process of a CT scan can expose patients to between 10 and 100 times as much radiation as a normal head or chest X-ray.

However, based on the results of the study, patients were rarely informed of the of the amount of radiation emitted.

Dr. Tanner Caverly, from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora surveyed 286 patients getting a CT scan at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center from November through December 2011. Only 271 returned completed research questionnaires.

Submitted surveys reflected 35 percent of patients said they had discussed the risks with their doctors. Only 17 percent said they were involved in the decision making process and discussed both risks and benefits.

Misunderstanding to the tune of 62 percent, patients assumed physicians made the final decision to have the scans performed, failing to realize the patient is ultimately the one who has a say in the procedure.

When entering a medical facility, patients are typically overwhelmed with stacks of papers to review and initial. One of these documents is a patients’ bill of rights and responsibilities. This is a list of defined rights for those receiving medical care.

A standard patients’ bill of rights guarantees patients information, fair treatment, and autonomy over medical decisions. This means a patient has the right to be fully informed of the potential risks associated with treatment options proposed by their physician.

Patients are encouraged to participate in their own care assessment. They are also allowed to refuse treatment if they feel it violates their personal beliefs, and or are dissatisfied with the current course of care management.

Patients should understand it is within their power to demand further information or explanation regarding their care plan. Doctors should understand the importance of relaying the information in such a way that an everyday person can comprehend what risks are associated with treatments.

[Image via Head CT Wikicommons]