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Use of CT and MRI Scans Triples in Emergency Rooms and Puts Patients at Risk of Overexposure

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According to a recent study, the use of CT and MRI scans for injury-related emergency room visits as tripled since 1990. Although the study’s authors focused primarily on the cost related to MRI and CT scans, unnecessary scanning poses a more serious threat than harm to our wallets. Specifically, scanning increases radiation exposure–a major problem that can potentially result in cancer, eye damage, or brain damage.

The research team, led by Dr. Frederick Korley of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, sifted through a nationwide sample of emergency department data collected between 1998 to 2007. Overall, the researchers discovered that patients with injury-related conditions were three times more likely to receive a CT scan or MRI scan in 2007 than they were in 1998. However, when comparing the number of severe injuries between the two time periods, there was no significant increase in 2007.

The researchers did add that there are still cases where it is beneficial to scan a patient to rule out life-threatening illnesses, especially in the case of head trauma and related brain bleeding. However, the study does show that there is a significant increase in scanning, even when there are no meaningful clinical results from doing so–a dangerous practice during a time period when The Food and Drug Administration is already investigating hospitals accused of over-radiating their patients.