New Scanners Deliver Clear Images with Less Radiation
When doctors suspect disease or internal injury, they often use computed tomography, or CT, scans to help them make a diagnosis. But while these scans provide detailed, 3-D images of the inside of the body, the radiation they use is linked with an increased risk for cancer. Fortunately, newer low-dose CT scanners produce the same clear images while delivering less harmful radiation.
The cancer connection
CT scanners work by using X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the body. Most often, CT is used to diagnose disease and injuries, such as cancer and spinal problems.
However, the radiation you receive during a CT scan can be up to 30 times higher than the amount you receive naturally from the environment in one year. In fact, up to 2 percent of cancers in the U.S. are thought to be caused by CT scans. Still, for most people, the benefits of the scan outweigh the risks.
Cutting radiation dose in half
Newer 64-slice CT scanners can reduce radiation dose without compromising image quality or your doctor's ability to make a diagnosis. It used to be that lower doses of radiation produced worse CT images. But newer scanners can produce high-quality images with up to 65 percent less radiation per exam. They do this with special dose-reduction technologies that adjust key technical aspects of the machine.
Low dose for all
Keeping radiation dose as low as possible is important for all patients. Although the risk for cancer from just one scan is small, it increases with each additional scan. That makes access to low-dose machines especially important for people who have had prior scans and for children, who are more sensitive to the effects of radiation. In addition, low-dose machines help improve the image quality in scans of obese people. Without low-dose technology, routine radiation doses often produce poor-quality images in these patients.