“We go through a long process in deciding each and every scan. We know exactly how much radiation we’re going to use,” explains Lee Memorial Health System neuroradiologist Dr. Cory Duffek.
A CT scanner uses X-rays to take pictures inside the body. Performed in seconds, it shows organs, bone and soft tissue - all non-invasively.
“We take images of the patient over 360 degrees and then mathematically reconstruct that into an image or a slice,” Dr. Duffek says. “And we use that to diagnose everything from broken bones to cancer to hemorrhages in the brain.”
Exposure to radiation is always a concern as it relates to cancer. Even a small risk is compounded when patients start getting multiple scans. But a new generation of low dose CT scanners are dramatically shrinking dosages.
“We’re getting new equipment here which is more patient-friendly. We’ve lowered the dose in CT and still get the same image quality. So we’re getting much less radiation to our population.”
The combination of improved technology and computer software are giving doctors the ability to ‘dial’ up a dosage. Based on location of the scan, what it’s needed for, even age - dosages can be anywhere from 15%- 60% lower than in years past.
“This was done on our scanner with the new low dose software installed on it,” Dr. Duffek points to images on a screen. “So we were able to get the same image quality at about 30% less dose then we normally would have.”
Weighing exposure against medical need is a balancing act. And science is winning.