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Health Services: Scanning

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 26 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will investigate the (a) effects on health of services offered by the body-scanning industry and (b) the appropriateness of the level of exposure to x-ray technology of those services; and if he will make a statement; (196356)

(2) what steps he plans to take following the Twelfth COMARE report on the use of computerised tomography (CT) to (a) improve regulations of the private CT scan industry and (b) investigate the advertising of private asymptomatic scans in relation to radioactive content; and if he will make a statement.

[holding answer 25 March 2008]: In 2005 the Department asked the Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment (COMARE) to include radiation protection aspects of medical practices in its work programme and as a first consideration to report on computerised tomography (CT) scanning of the asymptomatic individual. COMARE produced its 12th report entitled “The impact of personally initiated computer tomography scanning for the health assessment of asymptomatic individuals” in December 2007. The report has been placed in the Library and is also available on the COMARE website at:

www.comare.org.uk/documents/COMARE12thReport.pdf.

COMARE recommended that regulation of these commercial CT services should be reviewed. It also recommends that clients should be provided with comprehensive information regarding dose and risk of the CT scan, as well as rates of false negative and false positive findings. Among its detailed recommendations (nine in all) COMARE noted there is a regulatory requirement that all medical exposures using ionising radiation should be optimised, and that it is not possible to optimise exposure parameters for CT scans of the whole of the body. It has strongly recommended that services offering whole body CT scanning of asymptomatic individuals should discontinue. In addition, CT should not be used in assessment of spinal conditions, body fat and osteoporosis in asymptomatic individuals.

The Department will be consulting widely on implementation of these recommendations.