Most docs don't warn patients about CT risks

Most doctors don't tell their patients about the possible risks associated with CT scans, such as radiation exposure, according to a recently published study in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study's authors also determined that a majority of patients believe that doctors make the final decision on whether on not to proceed with a scan.

For the study, Tanner Caverly, M.D., of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, and colleagues surveyed 271 patients who underwent CT scans at the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center from November through December 2011. Thirty-five percent said doctors discussed the risks of a CT scan with them, while 62 percent responded that they believed the final decision to have the scan was made by doctors. Just 17 percent said they both discussed the risk of the CT exam and were involved in the decision making.

"I think that sounds pretty consistent of what my experience would be as a patient, physician and with family members," Howard Forman, M.D., a professor of diagnostic radiology and public health at the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn., told Reuters Health. Forman was not involved with the new study.

"It's likely an that many physicians also do not know the risks [associated with radiation exposure]," wrote Patrick O'Malley, M.D., a deputy editor of the journal, wrote in an editorial note accompanying the study. "[S]o it is not surprising that even when there are discussions with patients about risks and benefits of the procedure, patients clearly still do not understand the true risk of radiation exposure."

O'Malley concluded that work needs to be done to educate physicians about the magnitude of radiation used in commonly performed CT scans as well as the patient risk associated with radiation exposure.

Forman agreed, telling Reuters Health that both physicians and patients needed to be "empowered" much more in order to better understand and take more control over the delivery of care.

To learn more:
- see the study
- look at the accompanying editorial note
- read the article in Reuters Health