Mention Orlando, Florida and one tends to think of Mickey Mouse and Disneyworld, but the current proceedings of the American Heart Association at the gigantic Convention Center are revealing some data that seem to take the mickey out of the public.
Researchers studied heart patients in 49 hospitals in the US (here) and found that the battery of tests given to a heart attack patient adds up to a radiation dose equivalent to 725 chest Xrays! That’s about a third the annual maximum accumulation permitted for workers in nuclear power plants.
A patient was given an average of seven tests using ionizing radiation, which included repeated chest Xrays, angiograms, multi-slice CTs and ordinary CT scans. The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that the principal risk associated with radiation dose from a CT scan is the small possibility of developing a radiation-induced cancer some time later in that person’s life.
While I believe that doctors should not withhold tests involving ionising radiation where appropriate, there has been a significant overuse of such devices in recent years for inappropriate and irrelevant reasons. Part of the reason may be the necessity to recoup the capital costs as quickly as possible (especially in physician-owned machines located in stand-alone set-ups) but the other reason is also from demand from the public for the latest tests without appreciating the true benefits and possible dangers.
Whatever the reason, an informed consent is mandatory so that the parties involved can weigh on the benefits versus the risks.
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