Medical Radiation Exposure – Big Deal?

Medical Radiation Basics

• Studies are based on Atomic Bomb Data (Life Span Studies)
• Medical radiation and the A-bomb are not the same, but experts have deemed the data to be reasonable.

• Background radiation = 3.5 mSv/year (just from living on the Earth – solar and Radon exposure)
• Background Cancer Incidence = 420:1000 (42%) [Mortality is 200:1000] (Yikes!)

• Radiation effects are present not only at high dose radiation levels, but also effects of low dose radiation (0-100 mSv; where medical radiation falls)
• At 10 mSv Lifetime Attributable Risk of developing a cancer is 1:1000

• So 10mSV exposure will increase the cancer incidence to 42.1%… big deal?
• Well, it can be: particularly when you consider the population as a whole and add up all of the CTs that are being done. This increase has been shown to be measurable and significant.

Kids are at greater risk:

– More radiosensitive tissues
– More time for an individual insult to develop into cancer
– More time to be accumulate more radiation (one CT begets another)

Radiation adds up:

– CXR = 0.1 mSv (~10 days worth)
– Head CT = 2 mSv (~8 months worth)
– Chest CT = 7 mSv (~2 years worth)
– Abd/Pelvis CT = 10 mSv (~3 years worth)
– Lumbar CT = 15 mSv (~5 years worth)

Sean Fox

I enjoy taking care of patients and I finding it endlessly rewarding to help train others to do the same. I trained at the Combined Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics residency program at University of Maryland, where I had the tremendous fortune of learning from world renown educators and clinicians. Now I have the unbelievable honor of working with an unbelievably gifted group of practitioners at Carolinas Medical Center. I strive every day to inspire my residents as much as they inspire me.

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3 Responses

  1. July 4, 2014

    […] Superior to CXR; however, does that increased sensitivity outweigh the radiation risk (see Radiation Morsel)? […]

  2. March 25, 2016

    […] Certainly CT is very sensitive [Scott, 1999], but comes with other issues. […]

  3. July 23, 2017

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