Tag Archives: ct scan

CDC health overview: Diagnostic scans tripled

The CDC has released the 2009 version of Health, United States, their annual summary of health numbers and trends. It’s an epic heap of data; get the full PDF here.

For a 574-page, 10.22 MB government document, it’s surprisingly easy to navigate. There’s a table of contents, links and a nifty little feature which allows you to pull up a spreadsheet of the data from any chart or graph. In addition to the lead story on medical technology and scanning, the report includes 150 data tables. That’s a bit too much to summarize here, so we’ll settle for the CDC’s version of the highlights:

  • … the rate of magnetic resonance imaging, known as MRI, and computed and positron emission tomography or CT/PET scans, ordered or provided, tripled between 1996 and 2007.
  • The rate of adults aged 45 and over discharged from the hospital after receiving at least one knee replacement procedure increased 70 percent from 1996 to 2006 (26.5 per 10,000 population in 1996 to 45.2 per 10,000 in 2006).
  • From 1988-1994 to 2003-2006, use of antidiabetic drugs among adults aged 45 years and over increased about 50 percent, and the use of statin drugs to lower cholesterol among this age group increased almost tenfold.
  • The number of new organ transplantations per 1 million people increased 31 percent for kidney transplants (43.7 per 1 million in 1997 vs. 57.2 in 2006) and 42 percent for liver transplants between 1997 and 2006 (15.6 per 1 million in 1997 vs. 22.2 in 2006).
  • Life expectancy at birth increased more for the black than for the white population between 1990 and 2007, thereby narrowing the gap in life expectancy between these two racial groups. Overall U.S. life expectancy in 2007 was 77.9 years.
  • In 2007, 20 percent of U.S. adults were current cigarette smokers, a slight decrease from 21 percent in the previous three years. Men were more likely to be current cigarette smokers than women (22 percent vs. 17 percent).
  • In 2005-2006, 30 percent of adults often or almost always had trouble sleeping in the past month.
  • In 2007, 20 percent of adults 18 years and over had at least one emergency department visit in the past year, and 7 percent had two or more visits.
  • The percentage of the population taking at least one prescription drug during the previous month increased from 38 percent in 1988-1994 to 47 percent in 2003-2006, and the percentage taking three or more prescription drugs increased from 11 percent to 21 percent.

Scans at LA hospital spewed 8x normal radiation

On Oct. 8, the FDA issued an alert recommending hospitals review CT scan radiation levels after dangerous doses were detected at an unnamed hospital. The Los Angeles Times‘ Alan Zarembo took over from there, finding that serious radiation overdoses at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai hospital had prompted the warning.

Zarembo followed up with a series of stories on the radiation and its aftermath:

Heading into the CT scanner, photo by grewlike via Flickr.

Cedars-Sinai investigated for significant radiation overdoses of 206 patients

Zarembo leads with a summary of what exactly went down at Cedars-Sinai:

More than 200 patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center were inappropriately exposed to high doses of radiation from CT brain scans used to diagnose strokes, hospital officials told The Times on Friday.

About 40% of the patients lost patches of hair as a result of the overdoses, a hospital spokesman said.

Even so, the overdoses went undetected for 18 months as patients received eight times the dose normally delivered in the procedure, raising questions about why it took Cedars-Sinai so long to notice that something was wrong.

Class action filed for Cedars radiation patients

Zarembo checks with experts who say the class-action suit filed on behalf of victims has little chance of success because it’s difficult to prove damages, especially since they may not develop for years.

Cedars-Sinai head expresses regret for radiation overdoses

A quick-hit story in which the hospital details exactly what they’ve done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

4 patients say Cedars-Sinai did not tell them they had received a radiation overdose

Zarembo tracked down patients who said that, while they were contacted by the hospital concerning hair loss, they weren’t informed of radiation overdose or potential cancer risk.

Hospital error leads to radiation overdoses

Zarembo writes that the problem has been traced to a CT scanner reset in early 2008.

Cedars-Sinai radiation overdoses went unseen at several points

In one of the most remarkable moments, Zarembo writes that, before every single scan, technicians were shown a screen indicating, among many other things, the unusually high radiation level. The error was in plain sight the entire time.

Beginning in February 2008, each time a patient at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center received a CT brain perfusion scan– a state-of-the-art procedure used to diagnose strokes – the dose displayed would have been eight times higher than normal. No standard medical imaging procedure would use so much radiation, which one expert said is on par with the levels used to blast tumors.

Somebody should have noticed. But nobody did – everybody trusted the machines.


The New York Times‘ Walt Bogdanich added a broader perspective on the story, adding an additional case and subtly weaving it into the debate about the dangers of medical screening.