Wednesday, March 17, 2010

CT scans now under attack

Based on the stupid old theory that harm and dosage are linearly related when they clearly are not. Low dose radiation can be GOOD for you and has long had therapeutic uses

DOCTORS believe Australians should not shy away from CT scans after concerns were raised about the imaging tests being overused. The health profession watchdog today warned that doctors were ordering potentially dangerous CT scans at higher rates than in comparable countries. "I have been alarmed at the number of these scans ordered without clinical justification,"

Professional Services Review (PSR) director Tony Webber states in the watchdog's latest report. "Practitioners should always consider the risks of radiation exposure particularly in younger patients." The PSR report cites one case where a doctor ordered a scan for a patient who had experienced back pain for less than 24 hours.

But the Australian Medical Association's president Andrew Pesce says the PSR review found just two doctors had improperly ordered CT scans. "Out of the 47,000 doctors who get (Medicare) benefits only two have been found by their peers to be practicing in a way which is so outside normal practice that they've been slapped with a penalty," he said.

The AMA president acknowledged the number of CT scans was increasing slightly faster than other diagnostic imaging. "That may point to the fact that sometimes it's being used without considering other cheaper alternatives that don't expose patients to the extra radiation," he said. "(But) sometimes the best information you're going to get is from a CT scan and it's better to get a good diagnosis." Dr Pesce warned patients against suddenly becoming afraid of imaging.

Media reports that 400 extra Australians were dying of cancer each year due to imaging radiation was just "a theoretical projection" based on possible exposure levels, he said. "Usually if it's done properly it's only because you've actually got a significant risk of having a real problem that needs diagnosis. "People have to be sensible."


Warning - your child is unfit: Parents of British pupils who fail school fitness tests to get letters from health police

Parents of children deemed unfit are to be sent warning letters from schools. Secondary pupils will be forced to take an annual fitness test. If they fail, their parents will be told they are at risk of heart disease, brittle bones and obesity. The scheme was outlined yesterday by the Government's chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson.

He warned that lack of exercise is placing a greater burden on the economy than smoking - costing £8.3billion a year compared with £5.2billion. But the initiative was criticised by campaigners as yet another example of Labour's 'nanny state' interference in family life. Opposition parties said it also showed ministers' plans to improve school sport had completely failed.

The proposal is expected to be piloted at a small number of schools before being extended across the country. Under the scheme pupils will take so-called 'bleep' exercise tests which will see them perform a series of shuttle runs used to measure stamina and fitness.

Sir Liam also revealed ministers were planning to unveil recommendations on the amount of exercise children aged three and four should be doing, because 'many spend too much time on sedentary activities'. He acknowledged his plans would be 'shocking' to many parents, but insisted action was needed. His official annual report, entitled On The State Of Public Health, revealed only a third of adults meet the recommended amount of physical activity - 30 minutes at least five times a week.

It also found that overall child fitness is falling by up to 9 per cent every decade. Sir Liam said the situation was 'startlingly' bad, with only a third of schoolchildren doing the recommended 60 minutes of activity a day. Pupils are supposed to do at least two hours of PE a week, according to Government guidelines. But 10 per cent of children are not even getting this amount of school sport. Critics say Labour is to blame, particularly as since 1997 around 2,000 school playing fields have been sold off.

Parents in England are already sent letters about their children's weight as part of the National Child Measurement Programme. They are informed if their children are overweight for their height in their first and last years in primary school.

But the scheme has been heavily criticised for stigmatising children and labelling them as fat at a young age. In one recent example, five-year-old Lucy Davies, from Poole, was told she was at risk of health problems despite weighing just 3st 9lbs and standing 3ft 9 ins tall.

Parents said they feared their children would be bullied and made to feel inadequate by the new fitness tests. However, Sir Liam said: 'We might get a few shocks in some parts of the country but I think it's well worth doing....

In 2003, physical fitness testing became mandatory for 10 to 15 year olds in California. Each year, more than 1.3million students are assessed in six fitness areas. The children are each given a score representing their level of fitness. Over three years, an improvement of 8.2 per cent has been seen in the level of these scores. In 2007, a similar mandatory test was introduced in Texas for children aged eight to 17.

His report said if everyone did the recommended physical activity, heart disease would fall by 10 per cent, stroke by 20 per cent, type two diabetes by up to 50 per cent, breast cancer by 30 per cent, and osteoporosis-related hip fractures by 50 per cent.

But Margaret Morrissey, founder of the Parents Out Loud pressure group, described the warning letters as 'absolutely disgusting'. 'If the Government goes any further they will be completely intrusive in every aspect of the way parents bring up children,' she added. 'If they were to suggest that about my child, I would probably sue them for defamation of character for basically calling me a poor parent. 'Every child is different; they all have different genes. If you have the wrong genes, the chances are you won't conform to Government targets.'

Dylan Sharpe, from campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: 'While it is important that children are fit and healthy, these proposed annual tests are yet more Government interference and yet more tests for a generation of children who are already constantly under assessment.'

LibDem health spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'Sir Liam Donaldson is right to raise concerns about the state of our children's health but routine "bleep tests" won't by themselves solve the obesity crisis facing the country.'

The Department for Children, School and Families said: 'We think it's an interesting idea and we will consider it.'


No comments: