Last year, US doctors ordered 68 million CT scans. That’s three times more than in 1995. There are 24,000 CT scanners in the US, or 81 scanners per million citizens. That ratio is three times higher than other western countries.
In 2000, when half as many CT scans were done, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Pennsylvania concluded that 30% of all scans and imaging procedures were inappropriate or contributed no useful information.
CT scan manufacturers such as GE and Siemens have plug-and-play business plans for physicians. The plans point out that break-even throughput is 2 scans per day for 5 years, and that it’s possible to do 20 scans per day with proper staffing and organization. In case you wondered, physicians owning CT scans are 2-7 times more likely to order them than those who refer patients to outside facilities.
Then there’s the cancer risk due to radiation exposure from CT scans. A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that such exposure could cause 2% of all cancer deaths 20-30 years from now.