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AS LOW AS REASONABLY ACHIEVABLE: ULTRA-LOW DOSE CT SCANS

The discovery of X-rays has had a gigantic impact on the world. Not only can ionizing radiation be used for diagnosing diseases and various maladies, but it can also be used to kill cancer through radiation therapy. Ever since the damaging effects of ionizing radiation became a concern, nuclear agencies and medical organizations have made an effort to keep dosage as low as reasonable possible (ALARA). 

The debate about the direct correlation of radiation exposure to the risk of getting cancer has been debated for many years, yet no changes have been made in policies. Our article on REEXAMINING THE LINEAR NO-THRESHOLD MODEL sheds light on this subject. One of the main concerns for radiation exposure to the general public is CT scans. Is there a way to somehow minimize the amount of dangerous radiation?

Ultra-low dose CT

A team of radiologists from NYU Langone Medical Center have managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible. They reduced the average amount of radiation from a CT scan from 0.43 msV to 0.03 msV, which is more than 14 times less! Amazingly, they got the radiation dose down to what is given in a chest X-ray.

To achieve this they had to develop a brand new protocol which they called REDUCTION (Reduced Effective Dose Using Computed Tomography in Orthopedic Injury). From August 2014 to March 2015, 50 patients with symptoms of joint fractures were scanned using the novel protocol. The images were then compared to similar injuries diagnosed with standard CT scans. Results showed that sensitivity and specificity for ultra-low dose CT were 98% and 89%, respectively. Orthopedic surgeons evaluating the images had no qualms about calling them near perfect.

 

What this means for doctors and patients

It’s not clear if the scientists will be marketing or selling their protocol, but the advantages it brings to the table are quite intriguing. With this innovation, doctors will be less likely to be on the fence about sending a patient for a CT scan, and patients will have the peace of mind to know that their exposure is minimal.

Keeping radiation dosages low is always our first concern, especially for children and young adults, whose bodies are still growing. The study showed that ultra-low dose CT scans are equal to conventional CT scans for diagnosing joint fractures, but the researchers are eager to expand the use of their protocol to other departments.

By Dr. Yuriy Sarkisov, BiMedis staff writer

09.06.2016

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