One heart attack results in medical imaging scans equivalent to 725 chest X-rays

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 by: E. Huff, staff writer
Tags: CT scans, medical imaging, health news

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(NaturalNews) Researchers from Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina have discovered that the tests administered to a person undergoing a heart attack emit radioactive elements at levels equivalent to 725 chest X-rays. The aggregate average of radiation administered is about a third of what nuclear power plant workers are allowed to be exposed to annually.

Dr. Prashant Kaul, author of the research study, indicated that doctors typically fail to identify any other tests a heart attack victim may have already received when administering their own. As a result, patients are being exposed to high levels of radiation that far exceed safe maximum levels.

The research team accumulated and analyzed data from over 64,000 patients who had undergone treatment for heart attacks between 2006 and 2009. The team discovered that patients underwent an average of seven tests utilizing ionizing radiation, the kind that is capable of penetrating tissue and damaging DNA cells. The vast majority of the tests were chest X-rays, followed by catheter procedures and computed tomography, also known as CT scans.

According to the American Heart Association, the aggregate number of medical tests given each year that involve some sort of radioactive exposure has skyrocketed, increasing 700 percent between 1980 and 2006. Most of these tests deal in some way with heart disease as it is one of the fastest growing disease epidemics in America.

Improvements in scanning technology have resulted in a sevenfold increase in radiation exposure compared to diagnostic scans performed in 1980. The New England Journal of Medicine reported in August that roughly 4 million Americans are exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation each year due to such medical testing procedures.

The obvious threat from radioactive testing procedures is the potential for increased rates of cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has indicated that a person subjected to a CT scan may develop cancer at some point in his or her life due to the amount of radiation emitted from the test. For this reason, doctors should be cautious in advising patients to undergo such tests unless absolutely necessary.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an alternative technology that involves no ionizing radiation. MRIs utilize magnetic fields to generate images that are typically clearer than those produced by a CT scan. Ultrasound is another option that uses sound waves to form images. Heart ultrasounds work especially well at assessing the heart for possible risk factors before a heart attack occurs.

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