When you get sick and have to undergo medical testing, you might be concerned about radiation from imaging tests like a CT scan or MRI. If you don't have insurance, cost is also a huge concern. We turned to Dr. Shannon Orsak with St. Michael's Emergency Rooms, to help figure out when you really need one of these tests.
He tells us it's always okay to ask the doctor if there are other tests that don't use radiation and cost less, like an ultrasound. He says the doctor might also allow you to "wait and watch," to see if your symptoms lessen, so that you don't have to undergo testing. "If it's your abdomen or head, it depends if you need it (CT scan) immediately or it can be delayed. If they recommend it for the head, you really can't delay in those instances. When it comes to the abdomen, you can sometimes delay it or get an ultrasound.
Dr. Orsak says sometimes a patient can wait three or four hours in the Emergency Room to see how their symptoms progress, if they really don't want to undergo a CT scan.
As far as being concerned about the effects of radiation on your body because of a CT Scan: "Anytime you do an x-ray or CT scan, you're going to get radiation. We're trained as physicians to outweigh the pros and cons, for you to get a little radiation now versus missing an appendix where someone can die, it's a no-brainer. Remember, people in Denver are exposed to more radiation everyday than we are here because of their high altitude. People who fly get more radiation, so there's always that risk and benefit," says Dr. Orsak.
We also talked to Dr. Orsak about the difference between free-standing Emergency Rooms and E.R.'s connected to a hospital. "Free-standing E.R.'s are licensed and not attached to a hospital and do everything they need in an emergency situation there. Most in the state of Texas are owned by physicians or business people, as are some free-standing owned by hospitals, but stand-alone," explains Dr. Orsak. Forget a six hour wait that you may be accustomed to in a typical E.R. "That's why free-standing E.R.'s came about, because of the wait time, and it's a system problem. You take away the system flaws and expedite the care to the patient, because that's what we're really here for - the patient. Wait time is typically 15 minutes in a free-standing E.R. and costs are going to be less expensive," says Dr. Orsak.