In a paper to be published in the August issue of the journal Radiology, Judy Illes, PhD, senior research scholar in the medical school's Center for Biomedical Ethics and the Department of Radiology, and her co-authors caution that guidelines are needed from the medical community in order to establish how and when whole-body CT scanning is appropriate. Further research is also needed to determine the fundamental usefulness of the data gleaned from such scans.
"We need guidelines today," said Illes, lead author on the paper. "Even though the scanning services are readily available and heavily marketed, we still don't fully understand the potential risks, so fully informing patients is impossible."
The authors note the rapid growth of direct-to-consumer scanning businesses that market their services on the Internet. Relying on Web-based search engines, they identified 88 imaging centers nationwide; Illes added that at least 48 new centers have come into being since the research was conducted last year, while one large center closed its doors due in part to market saturation.
The imaging centers are concentrated on the two coasts, particularly California and New York, in areas that are largely white and affluent. The authors explain that educated, health-conscious consumers in such areas could afford the high cost of purchasing whole-body scans which range in price from $795 to $1,215 depending on factors such as whether bone density is measured or whether the head is scanned.