More and more, doctors are using special X-rays for diagnosis or to guide their medical procedures. But they are often insufficiently trained to monitor the amounts of radiation they give their patients. Radiation burns can even take time – even months – to become apparent, making them even more difficult to diagnose correctly. Excessive radiation exposure can result in a rash and then a hole in the flesh, injuries that can be disfiguring and painful. This is a small risk for any one individual but fairly significant public health issue.
Severe skin injuries caused by fluoroscopy, a non-invasive technique which clears plaque from clogged arteries, a technique known as angioplasty. Besides cardiologists, gastroenterologists, surgeons and other medical specialists are increasing their use of fluoroscopy methods in their practice. Computed tomography, or CT, is an X-ray technique. It is estimated in the USA that 1,500 of the 1.6 million children below age 15 who get CT scans annually will eventually die from cancer. There is notably a significantly increased risk of leukaemia in children who had two or more CT scans. The main problem is that many children who get CT scans are receiving an excessive amount of radiation – adult doses.
One stumbling block to change is that some doctors still do not believe that medical radiation doses can be harmful. We know that low doses can be harmful. For instance, we know from studies of A-bomb survivors who were far away from the explosion that low-dose exposure can lead to cancer. What they were exposed to is similar to the doses children receive from their CT scans.
The benefits of medical procedures involving X-rays significantly outweigh the known risks. But he adds lowering X-ray doses in some cases and better monitoring of doses can go a long way to reduce some of the risks. Continuing medical education will become very important.