Thursday, 3 March 2011

Are Dialysis Patients X-rays a Risk?

A recent report from Italian researchers suggests that regularly x-raying dialysis patients to monitor their health is itself a health risk.

Marco Brambilla of Maggiore della Carità University Hospital in Novara, Italy said that the majority of routine x-rays to monitor a dialysis patients health gave no useful information. But the overall result for some patients was being exposed to the equivalent of 1000 chest scans a year! They followed 106 Italian dialysis patients' medical records over a three year period to come to this conclusion.

Many patients under went CAT scans (Computer Axial Tomography, to produce a 3-d image) and these can result in a dose of x-rays up to 100 times that of a standard x-ray. It was suggested that CAT scans are sometimes done without considering the cumulative risk or checking what other x-rays may have been given.

One of the problems is that increased exposure to x-rays is considered to be a cancer risk, and unless the process is properly recorded and monitored, the dose received over a long period of time can be quite high. The number of x-rays given while monitoring a patient's health varies from country to country, and some can be related to other health problems that a kidney failure patient may suffer. An earlier study (no reference available at present) suggested that about 2% of all cancers in the United States were caused by exposure to radiation during CAT scans.