Side effects of CT scans

Sáfrány Géza, Lumniczky Katalin
Nemzeti Népegészségügyi Központ, Sugárbiológiai és Sugáregészségügyi Főosztály, Budapest

Computed tomography (CT) scans which result in relatively high doses of radiation exposure, but have an indisputable diagnostic advantage, are becoming more common among radiological diagnostic imaging procedures. Based on the linear no-threshold model of stochastic radiation effects, even the lowest radiation dose suffered can trigger the formation of tumors. Tumor formation due to radiation exposure during CT scans, thanks to their higher radiation sensitivity and longer life expectancy, mainly affect youngsters. Most epidemiological studies on the subject concluded that CT scans increased the risk of leukemia and brain tumor development in young people in a dose-dependent manner. However, absolute tumor numbers are not really significant, so if appropriately indicated, examinations should be performed as soon as possible. CT scans of the lower abdomen in pregnant women may lead to developmental abnormalities in the fetus. In the vast majority of cases, only a series of CT scans can result in larger than 100 mGy fetal exposures which may raise the potential of abortion. The physician performing the examination is responsible for the justification and optimization of imaging studies involving radiation exposure.

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