New CT scanner breeds demand, controversy

In theory, the more detailed diagnostic image you can get, the better it is. But some specialists are up at arms over what they say is overuse of a new imaging technology. About 1,000 64-slice CT scanners have been installed worldwide since the technology was rolled out two years ago. Particularly popular since Oprah Winfrey got her cardiac health tested using a 64-slice CT last year, they've become an extremely hot item for cardiology practices that want to demonstrate that they're on the cutting edge. Proponents say the 64-slice CT scanner, which produces 3-D images, is remarkably good at detecting coronary artery blockages, and often allows patients to avoid unnecessary cardiac cath procedures. It also completes scans in five seconds, far more quickly than its predecessor, the 32-slice CT. But critics say that 64-slice CT scans shouldn't be done as often as they are--some patients have begun having them done annually--and that doing them too often subjects patients to unnecessary radiation. Some contend that some providers are deliberately marketing the test--which costs $750 to $1500 per scan--to people who don't need it.

To get more background on the 64-slice's benefits and risks:
- read this article from The San Diego Union-Tribune

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