Answer to Question #13626 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"

Category: Medical and Dental Patient Issues — Diagnostic X Ray and CT

The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:


Due to an underlying problem, I had to have two abdomen CT scans and a CT of my brain in the past five years. Should I be worried about the risk from the radiation associated with so many CT scans?


Many patients are worried about the radiation dose from CT scans. I want to reassure you that the risk from the CT scans is too low to measure and may not exist. Our cells are very good at repairing damage caused by radiation or other factors. We are all exposed to natural background radiation, as well as chemicals every day and our bodies repair the damage really well. Even though we are receiving more radiation during our lives, because of the use of CT scans and other medical imaging, we are expected to live longer in part because of the improved medical care possible with the new imaging technologies.

If you need additional CT scans in the future, you should discuss the risks and benefits of the scans with your physician. It is important to recognize that there can be risks due to a decision not to have the CT scan, such as the need for a more invasive procedure or failure to catch disease at a more treatable stage. Your physician should be able to discuss the options and the risks of each with you.

You should not be concerned about the radiation you have received from CT scans. The risk is very, very low or zero and there is a definite benefit from getting the right diagnosis and treatment. For more information feel free to consult the Health Physics Society position statement on Radiation Risk in Perspective.

Deirdre H. Elder, MS, CHP, CMLSO

Ask the Experts is posting answers using only SI (the International System of Units) in accordance with international practice. To convert these to traditional units we have prepared a conversion table. You can also view a diagram to help put the radiation information presented in this question and answer in perspective. Explanations of radiation terms can be found here.
Answer posted on 9 September 2020. The information posted on this web page is intended as general reference information only. Specific facts and circumstances may affect the applicability of concepts, materials, and information described herein. The information provided is not a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon in the absence of such professional advice. To the best of our knowledge, answers are correct at the time they are posted. Be advised that over time, requirements could change, new data could be made available, and Internet links could change, affecting the correctness of the answers. Answers are the professional opinions of the expert responding to each question; they do not necessarily represent the position of the Health Physics Society.