According to a new study, obese patients are usually exposed to higher radiation when they undergo procedures such as X-ray and CT. The study was recently published in journal Physics in Medicine & Biology.
Computer models were used to carry out the study. These models indicated that, in comparison to patients with normal weight, the organs of obese patients were exposed to 62% more radiation during CT procedures.
Aiping Ding, of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and one of the study researchers, said that the reason behind the high radiation exposure is that radiologists tend to use higher power settings when scanning obese patients. The higher power settings are needed because the extra fat around the organs of obese patients affects the quality of images generated within normal power settings.
The American Cancer Society says that exposure to high radiation doses can result in serious complications, such as cancer. However, Ding said that the medical benefit of higher radiation dose in a CT scan is more when compared to the risks of radiation exposure. Yet, additional un-needed radiation exposure should be avoided.
During the study, ten 3D computer models were created by the research team. These models were representing patients of normal weight, overweight, and obese bodies. CT scans were simulated on these models, which were called “phantoms”, and the research team estimated the radiation doses delivered to each one.
In phantoms with normal weight, extra fat the surrounds the organs protected them against radiation. This resulted in 59% reduction in radiation delivered to organs located deeply in the abdomen, such as colon. On the other hand, 59% and 62% higher radiation exposure was required to generate images with proper quality in obese women and men, respectively.
Ding concluded that the research team said that they are currently designing a software solution to estimate the exact radiation dose needed for each patient. Currently, CT systems adjustment for proper images is carried out on trial and error basis. Therefore, when the new solution is ready, it will help in precise setting of the CT systems and avoid delivering un-needed extra radiation.