4.14.2012

Obese Patients Face Higher Radiation Exposure From CT Scans—But New Technology Can Help

Most medical imaging equipment is not designed with overweight and obese patients in mind. As a result, these individuals can be exposed to higher levels of radiation during routine X-ray and CT scans.

A new study from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the first to calculate exactly how much additional radiation obese patients receive from a CT scan. Research results show the internal organs of obese men receive 62 percent more radiation during a CT scan than those of normal weight men. For obese women, it was an increase of 59 percent.

New technology developed at Rensselaer by nuclear engineering expert X. George Xu could help solve this problem. Xu’s research team created ultra-realistic 3-D computer models of overweight and obese men and women, and used computer simulations to determine how X-rays interact with the different body types. These models, known as “phantoms,” can help empower physicians to configure and optimize CT scanning devices in such a way that minimizes how much radiation a patient receives.

“Radiation exposure is cumulative over a patient’s lifetime. The risk associated with a radiation dose from a single CT scan is relatively small when compared with the clinical benefit of the procedure. But patients are increasingly undergoing multiple CT scans and other radiation-based procedures, which can lead to unnecessary radiation risk. Regretfully, our study shows that obese and overweight patients can be exposed to an even greater level of radiation,” said Xu, head of the Nuclear Engineering Program and a professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering (MANE) at Rensselaer.

source: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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