Patients place considerable confidence in CT scans, but they fail to understand the risks they may be taking, researchers say. Patients may be confident in the evaluations the scans allow, but they substantially underestimate the amount of radiation involved in the process.
The study, published in the January issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine, highlights the need for increased patient awareness about the appropriate use of, and the risks inherent in, CT imaging. Patients with abdominal pain are four times more confident in an evaluation that included CT than one did not; however, they substantially underestimated the amount of radiation involved and the attendant peril.
“Given the increasing concerns about unnecessary radiation exposure from medical imaging, our findings suggest that efforts to reduce unnecessary medical imaging will need to not only address health care provider practices but also include patient education and awareness,” the authors note.
Researchers surveyed 1,168 patients with non-traumatic abdominal pain.
Twenty percent reported confidence in a medical evaluation that included patient history and physical exam only. Ninety percent reported confidence in a medical evaluation that included patient history, physical exam, blood work and CT scan.
Abdomen-pelvis CT scans have been demonstrated to increase certainty of diagnosis, decrease the need for emergency surgery, and avert up to a quarter of hospital admissions, explains Brigitte M. Baumann, MD, MSCE, of the department of emergency medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Camden. “At the same time, there is growing concern about the long-term consequences of CT scans, particularly in patients who receive many of these scans over the course of their lifetime.”