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Patient Education on CT Scan Risks Lacking

HealthLeaders Media Staff, January 3, 2011

In contrast, a young patient who has had some nausea and vomiting for less than 24 hours, has no fever, and a GI ‘bug’ is making its rounds, probably does not urgently need a CT.

“Perhaps we could employ ‘watchful waiting’ and if things get worse or change, then the patient should return…for additional testing, which may include a CT. If things improve, then we've avoided an unnecessary test and radiation exposure,” she says.

In each case, the doctor uses his or her training and expertise to weigh the risks and benefits, she says. “Physicians do this all the time, but we often do not verbalize what we are thinking. Perhaps now is the time to try and verbalize a bit more so that patients can become more informed and involved in their own health care.”

The paper calls for further education and research. “We suggest that future efforts to curtail unnecessary medical imaging consider these findings and use them to guide investigations aimed at determining patient understanding of radiation risk and exposure in other patient populations. These future findings, in conjunction with ours, should guide patient education and awareness efforts.”

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