A new study published on December 18 in the online edition of the Journal of Neurosurgery revealed that CT scans performed on patients after brain surgeries sometimes failed to identify patients who needed further surgical procedures. Bedside neurological exams performed by a doctor after brain surgery proved more effective than CT scans in the recent study.
The results of the study seem counterintuitive; it would make sense that a highly advanced technological CT scan would reveal far more than any doctor could see with his or her naked eyes, but the study showed that the opposite is often true.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Loyola University Health System, consisted of an analysis of medical records of 251 patients who received CT scans within one day after undergoing brain surgery. The scientists found that the expensive and time-consuming CT scans did not succeed in showing what patients required further surgery.
Conversely, the standard neurological bedside exams performed by doctors revealed serious issues in ten of the patients. Three of them required further surgical procedures, which the doctor’s bedside exams were able to accurately reveal, while the CT scans were found lacking. ‘The low-cost, simple, but elegant neurological exam appears to be superior to a routine CT scan in determining return to the operating room,’ the researchers reported in a Yahoo News article.
The article also noted the possibility of human error in terms of the accuracy of CT scans, ‘The researchers suggest that doctors might develop a false sense of security by looking at normal CT scan results and therefore fail to monitor patients as frequently.’
CT scans have also been scrutinized in previous articles on this blog. The Yahoo News article reported that CT scans ‘cost hundreds of dollars and they involve ‘multiple personnel of varying skills and nursing staff who are taken away from their other unit responsibilities,’ the authors wrote. ‘These scans also often interfere with work-flow efficiencies of the radiology department.’ ‘
While many situations and emergencies may still demand and benefit from the use of CT scans, the results of the current study may inspire further research into making much more efficient use of the expensive technology, as well as instilling enhanced trust in the ability of doctors to accurately identify the needs of their patients.
Yahoo News. (December 28, 2009) ‘Bedside Exam Trumps Scan for Post-Brain Surgery Monitoring.’ Retrieved December 29, 2009 from the Yahoo News website