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December 17, 2009 — Computed tomography (CT) scans are widely used and are an invaluable tool for medical imaging. However, the possible overuse of CT scans and the variability in radiation doses might subsequently lead to thousands of cases of cancer, according to findings from 2 new studies published in the December 14/28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
In the first study, researchers found that radiation doses from common CT procedures are higher and more variable than what is typically cited. For example, the authors note that the median effective dose of an abdomen and pelvis CT scan is often cited as 8 to 10 mSv, but they found that the median dose of this type of scan was actually 66% higher, and the median dose of a multiphase CT scan of the abdomen and pelvis was nearly 4 times higher.
The authors also found a considerable range in doses within and across the institutions included in their study, with a mean 13-fold variation between the highest and lowest dose for each CT type studied.