What are the risks of a CT scan procedure?

Medically Reviewed by Checkmark Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sravanthi Sunkaraneni

There are no health risks associated with a CT scan. There is a common widespread myth that since CT scans use X-rays, a type of ionising radiation, they may cause damage to genetic material and lead to cancer. 

But it is well known that the radiation released by CT scan is ‘too low’ and not enough to damage genes. A (2020) study claims that, “exposure to multiple CT scans and other sources of low-dose radiation with a cumulative dose up to 100 mSv (approximately 10 scans), and possibly as high as 200 mSv (approximately 20 scans), does not increase cancer risk”.

To support this, the FDA website also states, “To date, there is no evidence of genetically heritable risk in humans from exposure to x-rays. Under some rare circumstances of prolonged, high-dose exposure, x-rays can cause other adverse health effects, such as skin erythema (reddening), skin tissue injury, and birth defects following in-utero exposure. But at the exposure levels associated with most medical imaging procedures, including most CT procedures, these other adverse effects do not occur”. The same has been confirmed by a (2021) study that states, ‘The absolute risks to individual patients are, however, likely to be small’. Hence, in context with the possible risk of CT scan, large multicenter studies are needed to reach a conclusion.

CT scans are not usually used as screening tests. They are used to confirm a diagnosis. When a lump or other lesions are found in a CT scan, it can cause significant fear in people even if the lump is benign. A study suggests that it is not necessary that all lumps in the body are cancerous. Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website claims that for a CT scan, ‘test results that demonstrate a benign or incidental finding’ can lead ‘to unneeded, possibly invasive, follow-up tests that may present additional risks’. Although the test may be beneficial for the early detection of cancer, the test and its procedure can affect the mental and financial well-being of many.

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Disclaimer
Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can further read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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