Massive, unnecessary exposure to radiation is just one of the consequences of the widespread overuse of CT scanning reported in a story in the June 17th 2011 NYTimes.com.
A review of records along with interviews has revealed hospitals regularly overexposing patients to radiation for no sound medical purpose.
Despite the assertion by radiologists that it should almost never be necessary to perform multiple CT scans on the same patient in a single day (in rare instances, the two scans might help a doctor distinguish between tangled blood vessels and a tumor) , Medicare outpatient claims show some hospitals engage in just this practice 80% of the time with Medicare chest patients.
When you compare the normal rate of double irradiation within a 24 hour period at university/teaching/research hospitals, – between 0 and 1% – it seems pretty clear that hospital some using the CT scan as a revenue generator, payable by Medicare – or, in other words, you and me.
So how much radiation are we talking about? A CT Scan provides about 10x the radiation of a standard X-ray. According to the analysis of Medicare records, about 75,000 patients received a this 20x jolt of radiation, wholly unnecessarily.
This is an amount for patients to worry about, says chief of diagnostic radiology at Yale-New Haven Hospital Dr. James A. Brink.
“It is incumbent upon all of us to limit it to the amount needed to make a diagnosis.”
It’s an amount for taxpayers (one and the same, as it turns out, to patients) to worry about, as well. The bill for those 75,000 double scans was roughly $25 million. Remember, statistically speaking only 0-1% of them were necessary.
Patients staying in smaller community hospitals apparently have a higher likelihood of getting extra doses of radiation – the analysis cited Memorial Medical Center of Michigan which double scans 9 out of 10 Medicare chest patients.
A change in this needless, expensive protocol radically reduces patients’ unnecessary exposure to radiation and saves that same patient money in the form of Medicare payouts which are, after all, made by taxpayers. St. John Health System in Arizona has already responded; it double-scanned 8 in 10 of it’s Medicare chest patients three years ago; today, the incidence of double scans is only 5%.
The medical establishment should be ashamed. This is a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars and a serious violation of the doctor-patient trust. Until all hospitals undertake to revise their CT scanning protocol as the St. John Health System has, double-scanned patients will continue to be double-scammed.