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    How much radiation will I get from a CT scan?

    Posted by John Holden on Sun, May 01, 2011
      
      
      
      
      
      

    ct scan radiationCT stands for Computed Tomography. CT scans (aka CAT scans) are medical imaging tests that are used to discover, treat, and monitor disease. They use ionizing radiation and computers to create images of internal organs.

    Although a relatively new technology, CT has rapidly advanced along with computing power. There are tens of millions of CT scans done every year. As CT has advanced its importance in detecting disease such as appendicitis, strokes and tumors has increased and so has utilization. It is estimated that CT scan use is growing at about 10% per year.

    In fact, at this time there is concern that CT scans are overused and delivering unnecessary high doses of radiation. There have been recent reports in the media regarding high dose CT scan injuries.

    What are the side effects of radiation?

    There are potentially many side effects, here are the most common:

    • Burns
    • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
    • Weakness
    • Hair loss
    • Dizziness, headache
    • Low blood counts
    • Organ failure
    • Gene mutations and cancer

    How much radiation will I get from a CT scan compared to an xray?

    Radiation is meaured a variety of ways. One of the units of measurement is Sieverts (Sv). This meaures the effect of radiation on the body. We are naturally exposed to radiation from many different sources such as the earth, atmosphere and space. Below is a short list comparing radiation sources (mSV is milliSieverts which is .001 Sv).

    • Background radiation at sea level: 3 mSv per year
    • Denver residents get: 6 mSv per year
    • Cross country flight: 0.02 mSv
    • X ray Chest: 0.06 mSv
    • CT Head: 3 mSv
    • CT Chest: 5 mSv (equivalent to 100 chest xrays)
    • CT Abdomen: 5-10 mSv

    Some experts believe that actual radiation doses may be higher for a CT scan of the abdomen and closer to 10-20 mSv. This occurs as multiple scans are made through the organs after IV dye is given. These passes are called "phases" and are done to see to detect subtle changes in tissue characteristics when exposed to the dye. For example, some malignant tumors will take up the dye right away and benign tumors take up dye much slowly. Multiple phases are needed to see this difference.

    Experts believe that above 50 mSv there is a slight increase in risk of cancer. Given that some patients get multiple CT scans during a hospitalization or over their lifetime this number could easily be exceeded. In one highly publicized case a young child received 151 scans in the same area of the head (this test has usually 25-30 images spread over the whole head). The child ultimately developed facial burns. Other similar though less dramatic cases have been reported as well.

    There are currently attempts to regulate and reduce CT scan radiation exposure. A law was recently passed in California which will require Radiology reports to include the total radiation dose delivered during a CT scan.

    Although the medical community is working to reduce CT radiation exposure, patients should be aware and ask questions about the amount of radiation involved in a CT scan.  Ask if there are ways to reduce the dose or select another type of test if possible.

    What are your thoughts on CT scan radiation? Please leave your comments below.

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    COMMENTS

    Well, why not use an MRI scan? They say that MRI is a lot better than ultrasound or CT scanning. With advanced MRI, you can diagnose almost anything!

    posted @ Sunday, May 01, 2011 9:22 PM by Matthew Tyler Evans


    I think that people should use more MRI if they can. MRI is the most effective way to diagnose and treat disease!

    posted @ Sunday, May 01, 2011 9:25 PM by Matthew Tyler Evans


    MRI should be used more often. It is time consuming for the technicians. All boils down to money. My son is suffering from testicular cancer and I believe it was due to radiation exposure during a test when he was 4 yrs old. Why was MRI not given to us an option.

    posted @ Monday, October 24, 2011 1:16 PM by cathy Goodwyn


    MRI's are not common practice especially in the rural setting. I work as an Emergency Department RN and our gold standard in frontline testing for advanced imaging is CT. MRI does have some advantages over CT but is not readily available to us. Unfortunately insurance companies dictate a lot of our practice and the cost margin and lack of availability of MRI technicians makes it less attractive to ER physicians. There are also reasons why CT is the exam of choice over MRI. It is the preferred modality for cancer, pneumonia, and abnormal chest x-rays. Bleeding in the brain, especially from injury, is better seen on CT than MRI. Though there is evidence of the exposure of radiation linking to cancer in current practice CT is the primary test. This school of thought may mutate in future practice if more evidence of cancer erupts from CT scans. As of now, the benefits outweigh the risk. 
     
     
     
    Joseph M. RN

    posted @ Tuesday, November 22, 2011 4:25 PM by


    In Japan people use Hi-tech. imaging the most among all developed countries. Because govenment of Japan controls the greed, the MRI imaging session cost on average in dollars $270.00. In US the country of greed the MRI cost thousands.

    posted @ Wednesday, December 21, 2011 2:09 PM by Dmitri


    I had a CT scan for the head on Nov. 21, last year. Within 20 seconds, I could feel my mouth, throat, eyes and nose burning like a chicken on a roaster. After 11 months, I still have these symptoms. Any clue, please? I will finally see a specialist in a few days. 
    Thank you, Dior

    posted @ Saturday, February 11, 2012 7:18 PM by Dior


    I have recently had 6 body scans and 2 mini scans to locate an abcess in my abdomen. Now I have noticed a drastic change in my macular degeneration, and my eyesight for reading, could the ct scans hace had an effect on my eysight.M

    posted @ Tuesday, March 13, 2012 11:10 AM by marguerite


    I have had 11 abdominal CT's within the last 6 months; I am now very very sick. I was wondering if it is possible that that it could be radiation poisioning? Anyone who has any opinion or expert information please let me know. I am a 30 year old female who now can't even get out of bed on my own. If someone can help, your opinion or advise is welcome.

    posted @ Thursday, March 22, 2012 1:43 PM by Mary


    This comment is for Mary. I recommend going to a natropathic doctor. If the cat scan is making you ill they would be able to figure this out. Also they would be able to treat you for this problem and for the original problem you went to the conventional doctors for. They are very intelligent and well educated and their treatment provides deep healing.

    posted @ Thursday, March 22, 2012 6:09 PM by carla


    stay away from ct's unless you 
     
    are critical. if you dont have 
     
    a head injury you dont need a scan 
     
    for brain damage.i have been told 
     
    whip lashes cause sore neck,not 
     
    subdural hemotas.proof a very sick 
     
    wife.also the 4 body scans with dye 
     
    were abusive and dye is said to be  
     
    cause of vomiting and nausea. 
     
    the sad thing is that the hospital 
     
    was not aware of previous accident 
     
    causing soreness and standard xrays 
     
    were used and this hospital saw no 
     
    need for ct's. if patient has dementia they need help to prevent 
     
    this serious abuse,especially in 
     
    large/new hospitals that are greedy.

    posted @ Thursday, April 12, 2012 2:07 AM by glen malone


    ok so i got an mri because my spine is messed up eventhough a ct scan or a bone scan would be better. My doctor did that so i wouldnt be exposed to radiation but they didnt find anything to diagnos it so i have to pay more money to get more tests. I am getting a CT this week. MRIs have advantages over CT scans and CTs have advantages over MRIs. MRIs cant find everything the a CT can and neither can an MRI. Its unfortunate that CTs have as much radiation as they do but it also does wonderfull things. One reason why they dont use MRIs as much as they should is because they dont have them everywhere. And CTs can detect adt get pictures of alot of things an MRI cant.

    posted @ Wednesday, May 16, 2012 12:01 AM by Cailan Castro


    I went to the Churchill hospital Oxford UK. 
    They have been doing a great job of treating my Bladder Cancer. May10th 2012. Things went pair shaped today I had a CT scan with Contrast nothing new had it before. 
    However to be told I had to go for a chest X-Ray was different . Not feeling a warm sensation was also different.  
    No One asked me to remove my neck chain so I had to have an other Chest X-ray so my contrast was used x 3. 
    Now both knees went on me I was un able to walk. Blader cancer symptoms came back big time today 19th May great pain UK does not regconise the problem telling me that both legs in so much pain can not be due to dye well my Bladder did not ask to be upset so what ever Made my knee pain return with a vengeance is the same that up set my Bladder. 
    What could it have been? I am in a lot of pain hobblling with a stick Never been like that before in my Life.

    posted @ Saturday, May 19, 2012 4:19 PM by Liam Duncan


    I had a CT-Chest, Abdomen one week ago. I had jitters and creepy/crawly feeling in my legs that night after it was done. Now I have a lump in my throat and started having a hard time swallowing yesterday. Not sure if it is CT related w/ both of these issues.

    posted @ Friday, May 25, 2012 8:33 AM by A Patrick


    I recently had a CT Scan of my abdomen to identify a mysterious bulge. I was subjected to 3 passes...When I asked the Technician what my dose was she told me that the computer indicated a total dose of 29 milli Grays...I determined that this dose was equivilant to 29 milli Sieverts which is a pretty hefty dose when compared to a normal X-Ray which is ~.06 Milli Sieverts...One needs to keep track of their overall total dosage so that they can make intelligent decisions about their medical tests.

    posted @ Tuesday, June 26, 2012 12:25 PM by Skip


    back when i was 5 i had a tumer in my upper-right kidny. must of had at least 5-10 ct scans. nothing ever happened. now after reading all the people wrote on here, its kind of scary. was i just to young to relize the side effects or did i not have any...

    posted @ Tuesday, September 04, 2012 9:56 PM by Daniel


    I had a CT Scan done today on my Abdomen. With an IV Contrast. I didn't get nauseous. I didn't experience any side effects. The preparation drink they make you drink 2 hours prior isn't pleasant, but it's bearable. All in all, it wasn't as scary as I had anticipated.

    posted @ Thursday, September 06, 2012 1:57 PM by Lori


    In June I had a series of x-rays on my neck. In August I had a ct scan. I am suppose to have a chest x-ray before scheduled nasal surgery in October. I feel this is a lot of exposure to radiation in a very short time. Should I be worried. I haven't had the chest x-ray yet because I am concerned.

    posted @ Monday, September 10, 2012 8:23 PM by Doris J.


    I have lung CT's with iodine done every half year to screne for spreading of metastasis of local eye tumor. Early detection of teh spreading is important to treat earliest and survive longest. An MRI for that organ is no option as those do not give enough detail, so the lesions would be discovered too late and than I would be done for. So one cannot just discard CT's. The radiation is a trade off that allows many to actually live LONGER!

    posted @ Tuesday, February 19, 2013 7:17 AM by Peter L


    I had complications after a lap choley and was hospitalized two months later for a blockage. It was a 9mm stone that had been missed during my surgery. I received a MRI with contrast as well as a CT Scan of the abdomen and have been extremely fatigued and thought it must be from my fibromyalgia but I am also losing my hair in a ring around my head and I am very upset about this. I live in a small town so dr's always stick together and I don't think I will get any help. My hair isn't as thick as it was when I was younger and I did have a little thinning but nothing like now. I so wish I hadn't agreed to the CT Scan. They didn't know any more after that than they did after the MRI. I had a difficult time with the dye because it burned like fire when they injected it and I had to make them stop after several small doses. I am not sure how small as I couldn't see how much. I am a RN so I'm not totally dumb about things but I feel like I must have had a whopping dose and the hair loss is because of it. Will my hair come back? Will it stop falling out? Questions I don't have answers to. If you have any input please share with me. Thank you.

    posted @ Tuesday, February 26, 2013 1:22 AM by Sandra Trank


    Sandra, the hair loss you have is likely a hormonal instability caused by the thyroid due to the CT/iodine. this is called hyperthyroidism. It is always good to see a doc about it, but the hair loss hould gradually low down and stop in a few months, when the hormone levels stabilize again. Then the hair should come back.

    posted @ Monday, March 04, 2013 3:19 PM by Peter L


    To Sandra Trank. 
    I too have had a ct scan of the abdo/chest/pelvic area. I had 2 normal x-rays before that on my neck and back. I am also woried because my hair has been thinning and breaking. I also have skin problems which I never had before. It wasn't necessary for the doctor to put me through that, just money for the private hospital. I have been off work with it for the last 6 months. My doctor is useless. I am so worried I am going to die from this. My skin burns as well. Has anyone else had this and survived. I also have pin pricks on my neck just like a stinging nettle rash which burns if I get hot. My skin has gone leathery, before it was baby soft. Can someone help me. Are there doctors who can diagnose if its too much radiation. I know it is.

    posted @ Tuesday, March 19, 2013 1:47 PM by moy


    To Moy, My heart goes out to you, I know how these side effects can really stress us. I did some research for the hair loss and discovered thru a cancer patient that for hair loss after being exposed to radiation and chemo. She stated that she took two supplements and they are Horsetail Herb and MSM. The combination she said brought her hair back thicker than ever before. I looked up MSM and it has been noted it is for radiation toxicity! Seems like my friend knew what she was talking about. I also looked up MSM and Horsetail Herb. I am taking both of them now and have since about the first week of March and it seems that I have some hair coming back around my hair line as I can feel those short guys. I would ask my Dr if these would hurt you before taking them. I am taking 500mg of Horsehair herb morning and night, plus the MSM can be hard on your digestive system so I started slow. The daily recommended dose is 1 1000mg capsule 3-5 times a day. It sounds like a lot but the dose on the bottle is usually safe. I started with only 1 capsule 3x's a day and was fine so quickly increased my afternoon dose to 2 and just increased every other day until I am taking a full dose now. Read up on the benefits of Horsetail herb and MSM. There is quite a lot on it believe it or not. I was surprised because I have never heard of either in my life. I also take a multi called Hair Skin and Nails and vitamin D3. There is what I am doing and I have had no ill effect from any of it. My skin is actually feeling better and not so itchy and the rash is subsiding a lot. The only other thing I did was to change my shampoo and conditioner to Dermorganic and bought body lotion and shower wash without Sodium Laurel or it derivatives. Best to go organic for your skin care. Body and face. I tried use Derma E and they have a calming face cream for sensitive skin and a nice antiaging night cream and eye cream that I began to use and it has helped a lot. I get these on Amazon because they are cheaper there. I would look into changing over to organic products. I began the change soon after my mega radiation exposure and it has been a help for my skin and my hair. Its only been 3 weeks and I am already seeing the benefits of. The Sodium Laurel is in most all our personal care products and it is used to degrease car engines and clean garage floors! Oh my! I can give you what I have on these but you can also look up the dangers of SLS and it will shock you. I hope this helps. If you need someone to chat with I am on Facebook or we can exchange emails. Whatever you like. I know if I didn't have my post mastectomy friend with chemo and radiation toxicity I wouldn't have known what to do cause if you are not experiencing what we are, you can't possible understand the trauma we are experiencing. God Bless you and I will be praying for you. Sandy 

    posted @ Wednesday, March 20, 2013 7:22 PM by Sandra Trank


    Sndra, as one patient to another, that sounds like maybe too high a dose of CT was used. Can you get the written records bfrom the fadiologists of the xact dosage?

    posted @ Thursday, March 21, 2013 4:09 AM by Peter L


    To Peter L, I can certainly try to get copies. Being it's a weekend, I will try to get them on Monday when I pay on my hospital bill. I will let you know as soon as I get the numbers.

    posted @ Friday, March 22, 2013 10:47 PM by Sandra Trank


    I have stage 4 cancer, and was diagnosed in December 2011, so every 3 months or so I have under gone CT scans with contrast and the stuff you have to drink. I noticed that each time I received the constrast, especially the last time, I had a hard time breathing, the scan is quick, but it couldn't get done fast enough, it was a scarey feeling. So my question is it normal each time you receive the constrast that these side effects can intensify?

    posted @ Wednesday, May 08, 2013 8:45 PM by Chris


    Chris, I am so sorry to hear about your cancer. I will pray for you. It could very well be you are receiving too much radiation and perhaps developing an allergy to the dye or something they are giving you. I would tell my dr and see what he or she would recommend. I would also read up on MSM. It is a nutritional supplement given to cancer patients for radiation toxicity and will counter the effects and help to flush out your body from the toxins. Always drink plenty of water after a test like that and I did begin taking MSM after my CT Scan for bad side effects and it did help me. I feel a lot better and will continue to take it daily. Research MSM for yourself. I was told this by a friend who had breast cancer. I'm a RN but my oncology knowledge is limited to experience with family friends and my own. It is a specialty area for sure. Ask you dr if MSM would do you any harm. The only thing I found is that a person on blood thinners should not without a dr's knowledge. It would help you too I am sure. At any rate it is worth looking in to. God Bless...

    posted @ Thursday, May 09, 2013 12:29 PM by Sandra Trank


    Hi everybody. 
    Two weeks ago I had a CT head scan. I wanted to know: the radiation dose for ct head is something that the doctor changes? or the scan changes it in automatic way? Please help me with some information.

    posted @ Monday, May 13, 2013 3:32 AM by Annie


    Help- maybe cts are good in some cases but the poublic should be informed of the risks. In my case mine were grossly unnecessary. I just pray that I don't get cancer from them- all I had was bronchitis. I did not need or want a ct. The tech informed me these were safe-I feel the public should be e ducated about the risks and then weigh them- I was ready to walk out then and I should have. Now I am worried about getting additional rays like even a full dental- which I wouldn't have to worry about if I would have honestly told about what type of dangers there were.

    posted @ Friday, May 31, 2013 2:45 PM by marie


    hi to every body,, i just want to know the side effects of ct scan on a my baby age 1 and 10 months,he just undergo ct scan last may 29,2013 due to head fall, and because he vomit 6 
    times after 8 hours i brought him to the ER,and the doctor see an imflammation on his frontal part of his head.my question is what is the effect of ct scan to my baby?and i was expose too coz i was the one observing inside but i wear a heavy protective gear on my body but not my face and after that i felt that neck felt numb.Thanx, hope some one will answer my question

    posted @ Tuesday, June 04, 2013 5:24 AM by agot


    I'm totally scared since the day I made my head ct. I read everything about mSv levels that you can take during a ct exam, the most terrifying thing is that even 500 mSv that the risk for cancer is sure and evident, doesn't give you any symptoms, but also ct scans are not pre-set, it's the doctor that gives you the dose from the amount of slices he uses. A lot of people got high levels of radiation exposure, the examples are everywhere. I'm so depressed, my biggest mistake was googling, I can't sleep, I don't know how to get out from this situation. I wan't to forget this, but the idea that I'm getting cancer later doesn't let me breath. Does anyone have this experience?

    posted @ Monday, June 17, 2013 8:04 AM by jane


    This is a great videocast re: CT scan and radiation exposure and the relative doses and risks. Worth watching : http://videocast.nih.gov/summary.asp?Live=12262&bhcp=1

    posted @ Monday, July 29, 2013 10:29 AM by csr


    how long time xrays remain in body after brain ct scan??? 
    and if there arisk for me from one ct iam23 years 

    posted @ Saturday, December 21, 2013 9:41 AM by michael


    Michael, Anytime we are exposed to radiation is not good but sometimes the reasons for it being life or death for an accurate diagnosis, we need to take the risk. Plenty of fluid afterwards helps plus supplements of MSM and horsetail herb if you suffer hair loss. If you have the contrast it increases the dosage of radiation. A CT Scan has quite a lot and the tech who does the scan will know the dosage. MSM is given to chemo patients after treatment and is also given for radiation toxicity so it won't hurt you to take them but you may ask your dr first. I didn't ask mine before I started as I did the research on it. There is no overdose with MSM as it is necessary for the body to repair cells. I am still taking it and take the Opti MSM powder and put it in a little juice every day. If you go with the MSM, Opti MSM is the real thing and the only way you can be certain. Vitacost has good prices and low shipping fees. I will pray for you and let us know how you make out.

    posted @ Wednesday, December 25, 2013 5:12 AM by Sandra Trank


    Mary how are you doing from your CT scan. I also am experiencing effects.I had a ct about 16 months ago.

    posted @ Saturday, April 26, 2014 6:42 PM by moy


    Dear Sandra, how are you doing. I am still 
    suffering from the effects of the radiation. 
    Are there any doctors that know how long 
    the radiation stays in the body? I feel increasingly unwell with it, especially the

    posted @ Saturday, April 26, 2014 6:50 PM by moy


    Dear Moy, I am not experiencing all that you did but I believe the MSM helped to detox me. I have a sister who had radiation and told me the cancer dr's recommend MSM for radiation toxicity. I began with 2000 mg daily and moved up in the dose until I began to feel better. As you detox with MSM it is common to have headaches, If you do back up your dose for a day or two and go back to it. The headaches are from the detoxification of your body and if done too fast can give you a headache. I did get them twice as I increased my dosage. I am feeling quite fine now but my body is still in the repair stage. Without MSM the body cannot repair cells well so I can see where it would be a necessary supplement. I am still taking it every day. I get the powdered form from Vitacost as they carry the Opti-msm which is the original form without all the additives and easier to adjust a dose. It depends on the dose of radiation you received how long it stays in the body but it doesn't go quickly, I do know that. Drinking a lot of water helps and I highly recommend trying the Opti-msm and I would think, depending on your level of toxicity, you will begin to feel better within a week or two at the most. It is a little tart so I put it in juice and stir till it is dissolved and add a little more juice if there is any in the bottom of the glass to get it all. Doctors know but if the question is asked in a way it points to error of another they say. I know that is wrong but that's how it works. They cover one another if need be. I am a RN so I know the workings. If you can get a copy of your tests including dosages you can find the parameters on line. Depending on body part thickness is usually how it is calculated along with a persons weight. My heart goes out to you. Some of us suffer a lot of side effects and others that don't almost laugh at us but the truth is that the damage is done even if one doesn't have a lot of side effects.Its been two years for me and I am just beginning in places to grow my hair back. Its a miserable experience but I did notice a marked improvement in how I felt shortly after beginning the msm. So take care and let me know how you are doing.

    posted @ Thursday, May 01, 2014 3:19 PM by Sandra Trank


    In A month time last yr.I had 2 Ct's,  
    1 Reg; 1 w/contrast then a Pet scan; 
    no cancer.Now a year later they want me to have a Ct.Is not that to much. 
    Am I just helping pay for the machine?

    posted @ Monday, May 19, 2014 2:34 PM by DeForest Miller


    DeForest, It is a possibility or they want to confirm the negative findings. I wouldn't submit personally to any radiation without a very good reason. I do not submit to dental x rays unless I have an abscess or need specific work done on a tooth. I have had recurrent melanoma on my right cheek since 96' and have been cancer free now for several years but it seemed with those routine x-rays were always followed by another lesion so I refuse now and my dentist doesn't ask anymore. They tell us they are not harmful but whether coincidence or not, those lesions followed with that "minor" dose of radiation. If you are still symptom free, ask your doctor why it needs to be done and then use your own judgment. It takes a long time for all that junk to leave your body depending on the potency of the dye and machine setting. The abdomen calls for the highest dosage and my last CT Scan in 9/12 left me with multiple symptoms and I still don't have all my hair back but it is beginning to come back Technology is great when warranted but over use is still a problem. We all have to make that decision when the risk of more is too high to be acceptable to us.

    posted @ Saturday, May 24, 2014 3:54 PM by Sandra Trank


    The warm sensation may feel when having a CT is from the contrast , and is harmless. MRIs are no better of worse than CTs as they both have their places in diagnosing different things. 
    There at many types of scan, such as DEXA etcetera that are neither. What astounds me is how many time , in US medicine, a CT is requested when a normal diagnostic ultrasound and / or Xray would suffice, in initial diagnosis at least. 
    A relative was CT'd in the US for a simple , uncomplicated ulnar fracture, at a cost of thousands. Where's the clinical need to override a doctor's ability to diagnose on history, signs and symptoms , and mechanism of injury ?  
    It's my suspicion that's this is all to do with money, and being litigation adverse, plus a public brainwashed into believing that more expensive is best.  

    posted @ Wednesday, July 09, 2014 4:01 AM by Sinead Connolly


    I have had 10 ct scans in the last 5 months and 10 chest x rays im scared that I will get cancer now the doctors do not listen when I tell them I don't think I need one they just say we are doing one anyway.

    posted @ Sunday, September 14, 2014 8:24 PM by mirissia


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