Iatrogenesis: telling patients about radiation risks

The BMJ carries a good editorial today about the risks of radiation as used in clinical practice, and suggests that we should be informing patients about the dangers as well as being careful about the use of it. But the biggest issue for me is not consent for radiation as used to investigate potentially serious symptoms, but the use of radiation in well patients as a ‘health check’, or, as the kind of private clinics who advertise this sort of stuff say, ‘health MOT’.

It’s this kind of imaging that is not evidence based and harmful for all kinds of reasons, including radiation: that’s the time when consent and full information about harms are very important.

7 Responses to “Iatrogenesis: telling patients about radiation risks”

  1. Alan Henness March 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    Would you say the same applies to chiropractors’ use of x-rays to find illusive subluxations?

  2. Margaret McCartney
    margaretmccartney March 11, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    a very good point. absolutely

  3. A_Reader March 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm #

    Dentists over here seem to want to xray teeth too frequently. I think it’s a revenue center.

  4. Becca March 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    I remember reading an article a while ago about Jackie Stewart (the racing driver) who apparently takes his family every year for medical screening at the Mayo clinic and supposedly had done for 20 years. This article was saying what a good thing it was that he did this as it had allowed the early diagnosis of several members of the family with cancer within a short space of time. I couldn’t help wondering how much radiation exposure was involved in these check-ups and whether those cases of cancer might not have existed at all had they not been carried out every year for 20 years.

  5. Sharon Morgan March 19, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    I had radiotherapy and brachytherapy for Cervical cancer 5 years ago. I never really got over that treatment. Ever since, I have suffered cysts under my arms and tops of my legs and I feel tired all of the time. The doctors just nod like it’s par for the course but no one really does anything about it or admits that’s what caused it.

  6. Rick March 22, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    @ Becca: Jackie Stewart was always an extremely safety-conscious individual, to the point where his safety crusades in F1 irritated his fellow racing drivers who told him he had a dangerous job and he should just get used to it.

    But I have to wonder whether the frequent exposure to radiation in these health checks were the cause of the cancer as opposed to being merely the means by which it was discovered? Paul Stewart, Jackie’s son, was diagnosed when he was in his thirties

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