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Overuse of Powerful CT Scans Put Patients At Risk

Overexposure to radiation is an unacceptable risk for patients, and when it occurs in our area it may be a form of Illinois medical malpractice. Even with the widespread awareness of the dangers, however, hospitals across the country still continue to expose patients to much more radiation than is safe.

The problem is particularly troubling when it comes to CT scans. A story in the New York Times late last week explored the troubling situation that frequently occurs when patients have their chests scanned twice in a single day. Experts explain how the successive scans are almost never necessary. However, reports indicate that, shockingly, some hospitals were double exposing Medicare chest patients 80% of the time.

Over the last few years there has been growing concern about the overuse of these scans. The problems are two-fold. First, the second scan unnecessarily exposes patients to extra radiation. One CT scan is equal to about 350 standard X-rays, so the exposure concerns are not trivial. One doctor noted how “it is incumbent upon all of us to limit it [radiation] to the amount needed to make a diagnosis.”

The second issue is the millions of extra dollars that the unnecessary testing takes from the already burdened Medicare system. About $25 million was spent unnecessarily last year because of this double-testing.

It seems that the problem was most prevalent at smaller, community hospitals. Investigators into the issue believe that these hospitals need to do more to change physician behavior to save money and protect patients.

Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers at Levin & Perconti have long understood the connection between improved care and lower medical costs. We have shared the clear evidence which shows that literally billions of dollars are spent each year on complications from medical mistakes. All those concerned about both improving patient safety and lowering healthcare costs should direct their focus in that direction.

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