When doctors suspect disease or internal injury, they often use computed tomography, or CT, scans to help them make a diagnosis. But while these scans provide detailed, 3-D images of the inside of the body, the radiation they use is linked with an increased risk for cancer. Fortunately, newer low-dose CT scanners produce the same clear images while delivering less harmful radiation.
CT scanners work by using X-rays to create cross-sectional pictures of the body. Most often, CT is used to diagnose disease and injuries, such as cancer and spinal problems.
However, the radiation you receive during a CT scan can be several times higher than the amount you receive naturally from the environment in 1 year. Still, for most people, the benefits of the scan outweigh the risks.
Newer 64-slice CT scanners can reduce radiation dose without compromising image quality or your doctor's ability to make a diagnosis. It used to be that lower doses of radiation produced worse CT images. But newer scanners can produce high-quality images with up to 65% less radiation per exam. They do this with special dose-reduction technologies that adjust key technical aspects of the machine.
Keeping radiation dose as low as possible is important for all patients. Although the risk for cancer from just 1 scan is small, it increases with each additional scan. That makes access to low-dose machines especially important for people who have had prior scans and for children, who are more sensitive to the effects of radiation. In addition, low-dose machines help improve the image quality in scans of obese people. Without low-dose technology, routine radiation doses often produce poor-quality images in these patients.