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High costs of CT screening

10:00am, February 14, 2005

Whole-body computed tomography (CT) screening has become popular despite the typical $1,000 price tag for the comprehensive X-ray scan. There can also be a hidden cost for each scan, of between $1,100 and $3,500, borne by the U.S. health care system, according to a new study. The extra expense results from the high number of harmless anomalies, or false positives, that scans turn up and that doctors must then check out (SN: 9/20/03, p. 184: To Your Health?).

Radiologist G. Scott Gazelle and his collaborators at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston used a computer to model 500,000 pairs of people from 45 to 55 years old. In the model, one person in each pair underwent CT screening, and the other relied on doctors for diagnosis and care of disorders such as coronary artery disease, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and cancers of the ovaries, pancreas, lung, liver, kidney, or colon.

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