FDA Will Investigate CT Scan Safety

The FDA has announced that it will devote two days of meetings concerning the safety of imaging equipment such as CT scans. The meetings come in the wake of multiple reports of patients being exposed to too much radiation as well as the safety of such medical equipment.
Professor Jorge Guerra, Jr., professor of radiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, believes the problem stems from CT scan overuse.
“Yes, there is an increased risk of cancer in the general population from the overuse of radiation,” he said. “Let’s work on cutting down on the overuse of radiation — not cutting out the technology.”
The US National Cancer Institute estimates that 14,000 people die each year from radiation-induced cancers. The Institute also notes that in 1980 3 million CT scans were performed in the United States. Now, 70,000,000 CT scans are performed.
The NY Times reported on March 28, 2010 that the FDA had ignored warnings from government experts concerning the dangers posed by routinely using CT scans to screen for colon cancer. These claims will be discussed during the FDA meeting.
According to the NY Times article, “For patients, navigating the debate can be difficult because doctors, patient advocacy groups and manufacturers often endorse positions that are in their economic self-interest. Radiologists, who often own and use CT machines, for instance, often endorse their use; while gastroenterologists, who often own and use camera scopes, often favor their own methods. Patient groups often get financing from drug and device makers, or physician-specialty groups.
The Food and Drug Administration, charged with sorting out such competing claims, has been just as torn on the issue. The internal dispute has grown so heated that a group of agency scientists who are concerned about the risks of CT scans say they will testify at the Tuesday meeting that F.D.A. managers ignored or suppressed their concerns, and that the resulting delay in making these concerns public may have led hundreds of patients to be endangered needlessly.”

Holly Haines