CT Scan Radiation Doses

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Since 2001, a team of diagnostic radiologists and medical physicists at Mayo Clinic have been developing and implementing new techniques to lower doses from CT scans. Doses of radiation from CT scans have dropped 50 percent. Dr. Amy Hara, a diagnostic radiologist at Mayo Clinic Arizona, will talk about the new techniques.

Richard Ruelas: A team of diagnostic radiologists and medical physicists at Mayo Clinic have been developing and implementing new techniques to lower radiation doses from CAT scans. Doses of radiation have dropped 50% in that time. Dr. Amy Hara, a diagnostic radiologist at Mayo Clinic, Arizona, is here to talk about the new techniques. Thanks for joining us this evening.

Amy Hara: Hi.

Richard Ruelas: What would be important about lowering the dosage of radiation? How much radiation does someone get when they get a C.T. scan or a CAT scan?

Amy Hara: The doses can range anywhere from millisieverts 3 to 10 to 20, depnding on the type of study you're getting.

Richard Ruelas: Which doesn't sound like lot but the media has helped to scare people. They talk about it being a megadose, 100 to 200 times an X-ray. Sorry. Have we helped make people overly anxious or scared of the radiation in a CAT scan or a C.T. scan?

Amy Hara: The medical community is divided about the risks associated with radiation. Some believe any exposure is going to increase your risk of cancer. Others believe the low doses aren't going to cause any increased risk. It's helpful for us to put into perspective. What I like to tell patients is we're all exposed to radiation in a day in Arizona. That's equal to about one or two head or chest C.T. scans. Other places like Denver, the radiation is several millisieverts per year.

Richard Ruelas: I guess what the Mayo has done is try to take the argument off the table. How much lower have you been able to make the dosage?

Amy Hara: We have reduced the doses by anywhere from 50 to 70% compared to just five years ago.

Richard Ruelas: With just as effective imaging?

Amy Hara: Right, correct.

Richard Ruelas: How that is possible?

Amy Hara: I think a good analogy is if you take a picture with your camera, if it's not too bright, you brighten it up and sharpen it. There's a similar technology that has developed that allows us to do the same thing. We can use computer techniques to make it better.

Richard Ruelas: So a lower dose image may be a less crystal clear image, and you're able to sharp it in the lab?

Amy Hara: We can pull the information out and make that information better so it looks just like a higher dose exam.

Richard Ruelas: What looks like a C.T. scan, people might associate that with an MRI. There's an industry that's cropped up for people to try to avoid the C.T. scan, right?

Amy Hara: There are other different images tests available like MRI or ultrasound that don't use radiation?

Richard Ruelas: But doctors prefer C.T. for certain things like cancer?

Amy Hara: For certain indications C.T. is the best test, for others MRI could be just as good or even better.

Richard Ruelas: Making the dosage 50 to 70% lower makes it more of a medical issue than, I scared myself on the internet issue.

Amy Hara: We are going to minimize the dose as much as we can for patients, in case there's an increased risk, which is very controversial.

Richard Ruelas: How long has this work been going on?

Amy Hara: Since about 2008. Mayo is really on the leading edge of reducing radiation dose, educating other physician busy how to do it.

Richard Ruelas: Is this as low as it can go?

Amy Hara: I expect in the next five or years they want to go as low as they can go.

Richard Ruelas: Again, taking the fear off the table.

Amy Hara: Correct, right. The C.T. is a life-saving test and people shouldn't be afraid of it. We're trying to minimize the fear as much as possible.

Richard Ruelas: So people can get diagnosed.

Amy Hara: Absolutely.

Richard Ruelas: Thanks for joining us.

Amy Hara: Thank you.

Dr. Amy Hara:Diagnostic Radiologist, Mayo Clinic Arizona;

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