I’m watching ‘Nurse Jackie’ on DVD and enjoying it very much. As fiction.
Like any good soap opera, the show is all high drama and lots of quiet moments where characters bare their souls. Not like a real emergency room (and I have worked in one) where it’s more like McDonald’s at rush hour, or else you’re cleaning out the cabinets and checking inventory.
Dr. Rahul Parikh, a pediatrician, noticed a departure from reality and common sense when Jackie persuaded Dr.Coop to order a CT Scan on a child for no particular reason.
According to the study, published online in the journal Radiology, the number of CT scans performed on kids in the emergency room increased a whopping five-fold between 1995-2008, from about 330,000 to almost 1.7 million a year.
And that’s a problem, because CTs expose children to higher levels of ionizing radiation than any medical procedure, raising the risk — ever so slightly but very clearly — that some of those kids will develop cancer in their lifetimes. Here’s how one pediatric surgeon put it: “CT scans are like mini-Hiroshima bombs, four such scans on a kid are equivalent to the radiation exposure that the survivors were subjected to in 1945.”
Two serious and real-life problems with medicine today are unnecessary tests and accumulated radiation. There is ongoing research about the adverse effects of too many scans over a lifetime.
Medicare and most insurances won’t pay for any tests that can’t be justified. Good thing, because there’s pressure not to miss a diagnosis, and without some push-back some doctors would just test for everything, all the time.
A few years ago, for-profit businesses were peddling full-body CT Scans on a cash basis. I’ve written before why this is a terrible idea, and the fad seems to have passed. I thought then that the radiation exposure was not justified and might be something to regret later on. It looks like researchers are beginning to consider that possibility.
Another reason why ‘no immediate risk’ is not the same thing as ‘safe’.
Read the rest of Dr. Parikh’s article, and you’ll feel a lot less comfortable about the harmlessness of ‘a little’ radiation exposure.
And ‘Nurse Jackie’ rocks, but Edie Falco is not a nurse, she just plays one on TV.