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Uptick in CT Scans for Minor Trauma Cases in California

Researchers urge caution in weighing risks and benefits

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 20, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The use of computed tomography (CT) on patients with minor trauma doubled in California in recent years, according to a study published in the Journal of Surgical Research.

Researchers looked at data on 8,535,831 visits by adults to emergency departments in California. Patients were seen between 2005 and 2013 and satisfied the following criteria: adult patients (age 18 years and older); a traumatic ECODE diagnosis and injury severity score less than 9; and discharge to home.

The team found that 7.17 percent of the patients had at least one CT scan in 2013, compared to 3.51 percent in 2005. CT scans were used more in hospitals designated as high-level trauma centers. About 39 percent of the CT scans in the study occurred at level I and II trauma centers, compared with 3 percent at low-level centers. A disproportionate number of those who had a CT scan were between the ages of 18 and 24 or older than 45.

“We can’t conclusively say which cases should not involve imaging, since every patient and every circumstance is different, but given that it is getting easier and easier to get CT scans, we need to be cautious in weighing their risks and benefits,” senior author Renee Hsia, M.D., professor of emergency medicine and health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a university news release.

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