Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Low radiation is the way to go

New CT scan technology exposes patients to much less radiation

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    A change in software allows a CT scanner to emit less radiation.

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    A computed tomography, or CT, scanner at Toledo Hospital.

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    Dr. Michael Walsh.

Patients undergoing diagnostic procedures at some Toledo area hospitals will be exposed to much less radiation than in the past, thanks to new software and CT scanners.

Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center has used a new low-dose radiation CT scanner by GE since November. Another low-dose scanner was recently installed at Mercy’s Arrowhead location, with a third planned for its Perrysburg site in the fall. Requests have been made for new scanners at other Mercy hospitals.

Since June, the Toledo Hospital has used new dose reduction software in an upgraded CT scanner. The hospital expects to have two new CT scanners in the coming months.

CT is short for computed tomography, which provides high resolution, 3-D images and greater anatomic detail, said Dr. Michael A. Walsh, radiologist for Toledo Radiological Associates. The software lets medical professionals obtain the same quality images, but with a reduced dose of radiation exposure to patients.

“They have such low radiation capabilities, you can get a full CT scan without compromising image quality. That’s what makes them extremely special,” Dr. Walsh said.

While exactly how much less radiation a patient gets varies from study to study, he gave some examples: Patients getting a heart CT scan might be exposed up to 75 percent less radiation. A CT of someone’s abdomen or pelvis could expose them to from 25 percent to 30 percent less radiation, and the radiation reduction could be about 20 percent for those getting a head CT.

Generally, most patients don’t ask about the radiation risks from the scans, but some are curious, said Ryan Landis, radiologist and manager of the radiology department at St. Vincent.

“Maybe once or twice a year someone has enough knowledge in physics to ask a question like that. A lot of articles talk about the overuse of CT scans and the amount of [radiation that accumulates], so more people are aware of it now,” he said.

Some worry whether there is an increased risk of cancer.

“Every time you have an X-ray or CT scan, that dose is accumulated in your whole lifetime. The more you can reduce [the radiation] for each scan, the less accumulation you get in your life. Radiation does cellular damage, so the less you have in your lifetime, the better off you will be,” Mr. Landis said.

Those at greater risk for cellular damage may be cancer patients who need CT scans often. But even though Dr. Walsh said the risk of cellular damage rises for those who get multiple scans, the risks are low.

Mr. Landis said patients who get CT scans often, “would want a low-dose CT scan.”

Dr. Walsh emphasizes that the benefits of receiving a CT scan outweighs the risks.

“The goal is to try to get useful information pertinent to patients’ care with the lowest risks,” Dr. Walsh said. “With the availability of the CT, it’s often worth it, and doing it with the lowest amount of radiation is our goal.”

Contact Rose Russell at: or 419-724-6178.

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