Patients not told about risks and benefits of radiology procedures

May 05, 2003

Emergency room physicians are woefully undereducated about radiation doses used in diagnostic CT scans and therefore are not providing patients with the information they need to make an informed decision about care, a new study shows. It is the radiologists' responsibility to educate emergency room physicians so they can educate their patients, authors of the study say.

"We surveyed 45 emergency room physicians about abdominal pelvic CT radiation dose and informed consent," says Howard Forman, MD, of Yale University School of Medicine and senior investigator of the study. Only 22% reported that they explained the risks and the benefits of an abdominal/pelvic CT scan to patients. Only 9% reported that they mentioned radiation dose, he says.

The study indicates that it is lack of knowledge that prevents these physicians from talking to their patients about the risks and benefits of radiology procedures, says Dr. Forman. When asked to compare an abdominal/pelvic CT scan dose with a chest x-ray dose, only 22% accurately indicated that the dosage used in an abdominal/pelvic CT examination is between 100-250 times that of a chest x-ray, says Christoph Lee, a medical student at Yale and a co-author of the study. Seventy-four percent of the physicians underestimated the radiation dose, while 4% overestimated the dose, he says.

"We as a profession need to do more. It's difficult because technology is changing so fast, but we need to take the time to educate our referring physicians about both the risks and benefits of radiologic procedures," Dr. Forman says. If they need more information about risks, they probably need more information on benefits as well, notes Dr. Forman.
Dr. Forman will present the study on May 5 during the American Roentgen Ray Society Annual Meeting in San Diego.

Additional Contact Information:
Danica Laub (703) 858-4332
Keri Sperry (703) 858-4306
Press Room (619) 525-6536 (May 5-8)

American College of Radiology

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