Computed tomography (CT) scans are considered to be one of the marvels of medicine. The technology used for diagnosis purposes enables doctors to analyze a patient’s internal body. It employs a computer that generates an image, with the help of X-rays, of not just the skeletal system but also your organs and tissues. The detailed image the scan provides makes it more valuable than an X-ray, giving doctors a comprehensive image of the internal body.
How Does it Work?
A CT scanner or mobile CT scanner uses X-ray beams to create a series of images. The X-ray beam circles around the specific body part that is to be examined. The machine projects the X-ray from different angles which then provides the computer with cross-sectional images of the particular body part. Each “slice” of the image that is taken is stacked on top of one another through the computer, giving a more in-depth image for diagnosis purposes.
Risks and Side Effects of CT Scans
There is a growing concern that due to the fact that CT scanners use ionizing radiation, there is a potential risk of patients developing cancer. The level of radiation CT scanners use are much higher than a normal X-ray, however, it doesn’t necessarily translate to a massively proportional increase in patients developing cancer.
A report that was released by the National Cancer Research Institute, states that the risk of a patient developing cancer from a single scan is highly unlikely. The average risk of cancer in Americans is currently at 20% (one in five) while the risk of cancer due to a CT scan is about 1 in 2,000.
Besides, the small percentage of risk that CT scanners may increase the chance of cancer in a patient, there are also known side effects to contrast agents used during CT scans. Contrast agents or contrast dyes help differentiate organs that are close to one another. The iodine-based dye is usually injected into the vein, taken orally, or inserted through the rectum depending on what is to be examined.
Side effects from the dye occur in anywhere from 1 to 12% of examinations as per the International Journal of Angiology. The most common of these side effects are:
- Skin rash and itching
- Runny nose
- Abdominal cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
There is an increased chance of side effects for patients that have heart disease, asthma, kidney impairment, or diabetes.
The Results of a CT Scan
The positive result of a CT scan outweigh the risks and side effects. Which is why doctors recommend the examination for millions of patients on a yearly basis in the US. In fact, in the US alone there are an estimated 70 million scans performed each year which shows how important these scans are.
CT scans can help doctors:
- Detect joint and bone problems which include bone fractures.
- Update on a patient’s condition when it comes to cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. The scan can help doctors analyze any changes.
- Detect internal bleeding or injuries due to an accident.
- Detect tumors, infections, blood clots, and excess fluid. Furthermore, doctor’s use CT scans to determine if treatments for tumors, such as chemotherapy, are working or not.
- Diagnose sciatica and vertigo.
The scan is used to diagnose and monitor life-threatening problems which is why there is a lot more upside to the scan than anything else. The in-depth images produced by a CT scan make it much more valuable than a regular X-ray. Being a comprehensive examination, one scan gives the doctors a deeper understanding of the internal body since it includes every aspect down to the tissues whereas an X-ray isn’t as in-depth.
CT scans allow doctors to determine the best approach for treating any disease or problem found in the internal body. It also enables them to keep the treatment in check and monitor its progress. This way if it isn’t as effective, an alternative treatment can be employed.
Even with the risk and side effects linked to a CT scan, the technology is highly preferred by doctors due to its astounding benefits. The result the scanner produces is beneficial for diagnoses and monitoring purposes of life-threatening diseases. While there is a very small percentage risk of cancer in patients due to CT scans, that risk isn’t particularly as bad as the impact of a tumor or internal bleeding in patients.
Scott has been working in the radiology field for over 30 years. He finds the biological phenomenons found in humankind fascinating and appreciates the incredible use that diagnostic imagery has to save lives. Other than acting as the President for Catalina Imaging, Scott enjoys spreading the word on new insights and breakthroughs in the radiology field, specifically the impact that mobile imaging has for patient care.