Overweight and obese patients may be unwittingly exposed to higher radiation levels during routine X-ray and CT scans, says a study.

However, a new technology developed by Rensselaer Institute’s nuclear engineering expert X. George Xu could help overcome this problem.

George research shows the internal organs of obese men receive 62 per cent more radiation during a CT scan than those of normal weight men. For obese women, it was an increase of 59 per cent, the journal Physics in Medicine & Biology reported.

George’s research team created ultra-realistic 3-D computer models of overweight and obese men and women, and used computer simulations to determine how X-rays interact with the different body types, according to a university statement.

These models, known as “phantoms”, can help empower physicians to configure and optimize CT scanning devices in such a way that minimizes how much radiation a patient receives.

“The risk associated with a radiation dose from a single CT scan is relatively small when compared with the clinical benefit of the procedure,” said George, professor of mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering (MANE) at Rensselaer, who led the study.

But patients are increasingly undergoing multiple CT scans and other radiation-based procedures, which can lead to unnecessary radiation risk. “Our new study brings us one step closer to minimizing radiation exposure and mitigating this risk to patients,” said George.

Currently, if technicians use normal equipment settings to perform a CT scan on an obese patient, the resulting images are blurry as the X-ray photons have to travel further and make their way through layers of fat.

As a result, technicians generally adjust the equipment to a more powerful setting, which produces a better image but exposes the obese patient to additional radiation.

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