Rate of Self-Referred, Sought CT Scans Worry Experts

The increasing number of people undergoing unnecessary Computed Tomography (CT) scans as the service becomes more available, especially in privately-run health facilities in the country, has raised concern among experts.

Speaking during a regional meeting on the optimization of radiation protection of patients in Computed Tomography organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday, Radiologists said it’s important for them to put in place regulations that ensure only those that really need clinical investigations using CT undergo it.

Dr Rosemary Byanyima, the Ag. Executive Director at Mulago National Specialised Hospital says that given the risk of the radiation associated with CT investigations causing complications such as cancer, scientists from across fifteen countries came together to discuss the optimized use of this diagnostic tool and determine acceptable limits in different settings. Banyima says experts will develop diagnostic reference levels to guide health workers.

According to Dr. Harriet Kisembo Nalubega, a Senior Consultant Radiologist at Mulago hospital, self-referrals by entrepreneurs running hospitals and individual requests for tertiary tests like CT are on the rise with many private hospitals offering the service majorly to gain profit.    

Nalubega says they are being frequented by individuals especially those on health insurance asking for a CT scan as part of their annual wellness checks. She warns that once one does a CT scan for the brain, the exposure to radiation is equivalent to someone who has done one hundred and fifty chest X-rays and if one does a CT of the chest, exposure is equivalent to four hundred X-ray examinations.

The expert says the damage with over-exposure to radiation doesn’t manifest soon as some people may experience effects more than twenty years after inappropriate exposure. She says studies link cataracts, leukemia, thyroid cancer, and brain tumors to exposure to radiation.

Meanwhile, at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Charles Olaro, the Director in charge of Curative Services, says the government is working to ensure that CT scans are more available in public facilities, which can partly cut down on unnecessary requests since access will be restricted to only patients that have no other diagnostic option for their complications.  

According to Olaro, fourteen regional referral hospitals will soon start offering CT scan services. The doctor urges regulatory bodies like the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Council and the Allied Health Professionals Council to take keen interest and investigate private facilities that are unscrupulously asking unsuspecting patients to undergo such tests.    

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