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Study Suggests CT Scans Improve Survival Rates

March 24, 2009

A new study released Tuesday indicated that utilization of whole-body CT scans for serious trauma patients considerably enhances survival rates, the Associated Free Press accounted.

An X-ray technique, called Computerized tomography or more simply, CT scans, generate images of the body’s internal structures in cross sections.

Contrary to two-dimensional X-rays, which are produced by beams of radiation from a fixed machine, CT scans combine powerful computers with an X-ray unit that revolves around the body. 

Full-body scans have only become technically practical in the last decade.  However, it is still a widely debated topic of whether their regular use to treat severe trauma patients justifies the expense incurred to the medical facility and the potentially harmful levels of radiation exposure to the patient.   

The first comprehensive study, led by Stefan Huber-Wagner of Munich University Hospital, along with a team of researchers, was conducted to prove whether the technique actually improved survival rates or not. 

The British journal, The Lancet, published the study, observing 4,621 patients of German trauma centers who had endured grave injuries, three quarters of them men.  Of these, 1,494 were administered CT scans. 

The trauma and injury severity score (TRISS) and the revised injury classification system (RISC), were the indexes used to compare the two groups of patients. 

TRISS is the most commonly referred to measure when predicting results for trauma victims. 

Study results revealed a 25 percent lower mortality rate in the CT group measured on the TRISS scale, and 13 percent less using the RISC index. 

“Our results show the importance of having a CT scanner near the trauma room,” the authors suggested. 

“We recommend that whole-body CT should be integrated into the early resuscitation phase of severely injured patients as a standard and basic diagnostic method.”

The Lancet also published a commentary by, Timothy Fabian of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, that argued that advantages of CT scans far exceed cost.

“I do not believe that health-care cost is a substantial concern with whole-body CT,” he said.

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