CT scans are used to help doctors diagnose diseases, trauma or abnormalities in the body. They can give an amazing look inside the body but carry the risk of radiation exposure. Now, low dose CT scans are helping get the same clear images without all the radiation.
The softball diamond was once 16-year-old Hayleigh Lanclos' favorite place to be, until she started feeling a shooting pain. "It actually started in my knee, and then I had surgery on my knee, and the pain just got worse," she said.
It took a CT scan, computed tomography, of Hayleigh's hip to find the source of the problem. "I thought maybe I just tore something -- just an injury playing softball -- not sure," she said. "Then, I found out I had a birth defect."
As a young woman, radiation exposure needs to be especially low to minimize the risk for cancer. That is where the new low-dose CT system at Imperial Health Imaging comes into play.
CT technologist Jeff O'Keefe says it drastically reduces radiation exposure. "Just recently the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved new dosing technologies that we're able to get with our new scanner and it has significantly decreased radiation doses to the body," said O'Keefe.
CT scans take a cross section picture inside the body, showing organs, bone and soft tissues. Traditionally that has required up to 60 times the amount of radiation of an X-ray, but now that is changing. "We're approaching now doses close to equivalent to regular X-rays, which is unheard of," said O'Keefe, "We're doing hearts at 3.0 millisieverts, we're doing hips at 1.3."
Reducing radiation exposure by as much as 60 percent means a lower chance of radiation damage. "Damage to your organs, to your skin, to your reproductive area, to your nervous system," said O'Keefe.
Hayleigh says the scan was easy. "I just laid down; I was only there for a minute -- not very long. It was very, very quick."
The scanning exposure was concentrated to the small area in question, limiting potentially harmful radiation and giving Hayleigh peace of mind. "It's one less thing to worry about," she said, "I'm glad to know exactly what the problem is now and it helped figure all that out."
Imaging professionals operate by the ALARA principle, meaning, "As Low As Reasonably Achievable," to minimize the exposure to radiation. Not all facilities offer low dose CT scans, so do your homework before you undergo a scan.