ANN ARBOR (WWJ) - A University of Michigan study shows that the use of CAT scans in emergency rooms has more than quadrupled in the past 12 years. Just over three percent of ER patients got CAT scans in 1996, but that number jumped to nearly 14 percent in 2007.
Study author Dr. Keith Kocher, a clinical lecturer in U-M Department of Emergency Medicine says that why they're being used so often isn't clear, but researchers suspect that CAT scans are better at quickly diagnosing problems, despite the slight radiation that comes with those tests.
"There are risks to overuse of CT scans, because each scan involves radiation -- so if they're done for marginal reasons you have to question why," Kocher says. "For example, patients who complained of flank pain (pain in the side) had an almost 1 in 2 chance of getting a CT scan by the end of the study period," he said.
"Usually most physicians are doing that to look for a kidney stone, but it's not clear if it's necessary to use a CT scan for that purpose."
Patients who received a CT scan in the beginning of the study had a 25 percent chance of being admitted to the hospital directly from the emergency room, while by 2007, this rate had been cut in half.
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