CT and Safety
Computed Tomography (CT) scanners have been in use since the early 1970s. In both children and adults, CT scanners can help identify and manage many conditions such as:
- Kidney stones
- And others
A CT is one of the best tools used to diagnose one of the problems listed above. Like standard x-ray studies, CT scanners use radiation to create images of the inside of the body. The detail seen on a CT scan is far better than normal x-rays.
All of us are constantly exposed to low levels of radiation. On average, natural background radiation from the sun, rocks, food, water, and air accounts for about four-fifths of our exposure each year. The other one-fifth comes from all of the man-made sources like x-rays. For instance, a chest x-ray gives about the same amount of radiation as a few days' worth of background radiation. A CT scan gives about a year's worth.
Some have a concern that extra radiation might cause cancer. Many studies have been performed to try to link areas of high background radiation with an increase in cancer. No link has been found. Low-level x-rays (like CT scans) have not been shown to cause an increased risk of cancer or any other adverse health effects in either adults or children. Using CT scanners has had a huge impact on the early diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other very serious problems. It prolongs and improves the quality of life for millions of people. The body does repair cell injury from radiation.
The concern that extra radiation might cause cancer comes from the fact that very high doses (like the amount from the atom bomb) are known to increase a person's risk of getting cancer.
We do our best to only expose our patients to the smallest amount of radiation that is needed to ensure high quality examinations. Your doctors and nurses are very aware of these issues. Decisions to obtain CT scans for both children and adults are made with the patient's best interests in mind. The need for information is balanced against the risks of radiation.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 06/18/2013
Copyright © 06/18/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5672
Print Health Fact For You