Radiology/CT SCAN RISK
I had a Pulmonary Embolism CT scan - after having complications from the flu and recently developed sweaty feet and hands with fatigue, weakness in the chest and some pain that comes and goes. The DR ran blood tests and found my d-dimer levels were elevated and said I need a CT scan to rule out blood clot (even thought I was low risk for blood clots).
I was worried about the scan due to the iodine since they informed me of the iodine contrast risk but no one informed me of the radiation risks! And I only found that out after the CT scan - I am freaking out how - the website says I received as much as 400 xrays of radiation?!?!?!?! When I read that I almost fell of the chair! Is this true? If not how much radiation did I receive and now what will happen?! I spoke to my DR but she dismissed me by saying they always use the lowest dose or radiation and didn't further the treatment or explanation. Please give me more info! Advice and please tell me what can I do to minimize damage after the scan?
Xray radiation is one of the most common concerns that I have questions on. It needs to be put in a proper context. The risk of dying from a pulmonary embolism if not diagnosed is real and high. The risk of increasing your risk of cancer from medical radiation is extremely small and theoretical.
It is true that the amount of radiation from CT is significantly higher than from one xray; how many times higher depends on the technique used but yes it is a few hundred time higher. You get exposed to radiation all the time in day to day life. A flight on a plane is equal to 1 or 2 xrays. However, let me put it in perspective for you. An xray is a grain of salt that you will eat today. A CT is a teaspoon of salt that you will eat today. Is a teaspoon of salt more harmful than a grain of salt? well, in theory, it is; but not practically. In fact you'll consume more than a teaspoon of salt today and another one tomorrow. What you don't want to do is sit down and eat it by tablespoons for no particular reason; that is where we'll run into a health problem. Same thing with medical xrays. There needs to be a reason in what and why we do. There was a very good reason for you to get a CT. There is no need to worry or lose sleep over this exam.
Hopefully that was helpful. let me know if I can be of further assistance.