The cancer risk that lurks in your hospital

Unnecessary CT scans are far too common in U.S.

Published: March 05, 2015 06:00 AM

CT scans can provide life-saving information. But they pose risks, too. Radiation from the scans—which can expose you to as much radiation as in about 200 chest X-rays, or the amount most people would be exposed to from natural sources over seven years—contribute to an estimated 15,000 cancer deaths a year, research suggests. And up to a third of the scans ordered each year are done for little if any medical reason, exposing millions of Americans to unnecessary risk. One of the main culprits in all of that unnecessary testing: hospitals.

In particular, doctors in hospitals often perform so-called “double scans," where the patient is scanned twice, once as a regular CT scan and then again with a contrast dye to make certain areas more visible. That exposes patients to unnecessary, excess radiation. Hospitals must now report the number of double scans they do to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. And we include that information in our hospital Ratings.

Such double scans are rarely necessary. “It’s just pure waste; they do it either out of ignorance or greed,” says Stephen J. Swensen, M.D., medical director at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Only about 35 percent of the hospitals in our Ratings had double-scan rates of 5 percent or less in both categories, the cutoff we use for a top rating.

If you’re scheduled to get a CT scan of your chest or abdomen, ask if you will be scanned once or twice (with and without contrast). If twice, ask if the second scan is needed. Also ask whether any CT is required at all and whether an imaging test that does not emit radiation, such as an MRI or ultrasound, could be used instead.

See our hospital Ratings with information on more than 4,000 U.S. hospitals, and read more about the surprising dangers of CT scans and X-rays.

Highest- and lowest-scoring hospitals for avoiding unnecessary radiation

Our Ratings show that some hospitals are much better than others at avoiding "double" scans. More than 200 hospitals that earned our highest Rating in avoiding double scans four years ago still get top scores today. And 18 hospitals deserve special mention for showing dramatic improvement during that time, moving from scan rates of over 20 percent to rates of  5 percent or lower. But 22 have some explaining to do: Their double scan rates were above 20 percent four years ago, and still are now.  

“Hospitals and ordering physicians have had plenty of time to reach the standard all agree is reasonable,” says Johns Santa, M.D., medical director for Consumer Reports’ Health Ratings Center. "There is no excuse for not getting this done," Santa says. In the lists below, hospitals are listed alphabetically.

Low performers: Hospitals that scored consistently low

Adventist Medical Center - Hanford - Hanford, Calif.
Memorial Hospital of Tampa Tampa, Fla.
East Georgia Regional Medical Center Statesboro, Ga.
Memorial Health Savannah, Ga.
Franciscan St. Anthony Health - Michigan City Michigan City, Ind.
Methodist Hospitals Gary, Ind.
Harlan ARH Hospital Harlan, Ky.
Pineville Community Hospital Association Pineville, Ky.
Acadia General Hospital Crowley, La.
Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Natchitoches, La.
Opelousas General Health System Opelousas, La.
Savoy Medical Center Mamou, La.
Somerset Hospital Somerset, Penn.
Brownwood Regional Medical Center Brownwood, Texas
CHRISTUS Hospital-St. Elizabeth Beaumont, Texas
Doctor's Hospital at Renaissance Edinburg, Texas
Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital Baytown, Texas
Hunt Regional Medical Center Greenville, Texas
Knapp Medical Center Weslaco, Texas
The Medical Center of Southeast Texas Port Arthur, Texas
University Medical Center Lubbock, Texas
Beckley ARH Hospital Beckley, W.Va.

Big improvers: Hospitals that went from our lowest to highest Rating

Advocate Condell Medical Center Libertyville, Ill.
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital
Yankton, S.D.
Avera St. Luke's Hospital
Aberdeen, S.D.
Beaver Dam Community Hospitals
Beaver Dam, Wis.
Freeman Hospital West
Joplin, Mo.
Galesburg Cottage Hospital
Galesburg, Ill.
Kings County Hospital Center
Brooklyn, N.Y.
Lake Regional Health System
Osage Beach, Mo.
Medical Center of Lewisville
Lewisville, Texas
Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center
Jasper, Ind.
Mercy Medical Center-Clinton
Clinton, Iowa
Nacogdoches Medical Center
Nacogdoches, Texas
Northeast Georgia Medical Center
 Gainesville, Ga.
Shannon Medical Center
San Angelo, Texas
South Florida Baptist Hospital
Plant City, Fla.
St. John Medical Center
Tulsa, Okla.
St. Mary Mercy Hospital
Livonia, Mich.
West Hills Hospital and Medical Center
West Hills, Calif.

Top performers: Hospitals that scored consistently high    

DCH Regional Medical Center
Fayette Medical Center
Medical Center Enterprise

Banner Boswell Medical Center Sun City
Mercy Gilbert Medical Center Gilbert
Scottsdale Healthcare Shea Medical Center
Scottsdale Healthcare-Osborn Medical Center Scottsdale
Verde Valley Medical Center Cottonwood
West Valley Hospital Goodyear

Baptist Health Medical Center-Little Rock Little Rock
UAMS Medical Center Little Rock

Antelope Valley Hospital Lancaster
Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Bakersfield
Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula Monterey
Community Regional Medical Center Fresno
Dameron Hospital Stockton
Doctors Medical Center Modesto
Dominican Hospital Santa Cruz
Emanuel Medical Center Turlock
Enloe Medical Center Chico
Fremont-Rideout Health Group Marysville
Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Valencia.
Huntington Memorial Hospital Pasadena
Memorial Medical Center Modesto
Mercy Medical Center Merced Merced
Mercy Medical Center Redding Redding
Methodist Hospital of Southern California Arcadia
NorthBay Medical Center Fairfield
O'Connor Hospital San Jose
Oak Valley Hospital District Oakdale
Palmdale Regional Medical Center Palmdale
Paradise Valley Hospital National City
Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center - Torrance Torrance
Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System Salinas
San Joaquin General Hospital French Camp.
Sharp Memorial Hospital San Diego
St. Joseph's Medical Center Stockton
St. Luke's Hospital San Francisco
St. Rose Hospital Hayward
Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento Sacramento
Sutter Roseville Medical Center Roseville

Denver Health Denver
Exempla Saint Joseph Hospital Denve
North Colorado Medical Center Greeley
Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center Denver

Bristol Hospital Bristol
Griffin Hospital Derby
Stamford Hospital Stamford
Waterbury Hospital Waterbury

St. Francis Hospital Wilmington

Washington, D.C.
MedStar Washington Hospital Center Washington
Sibley Memorial Hospital Washington

Bethesda Hospital East Boynton Beach
Capital Regional Medical Center Tallahassee
Fawcett Memorial Hospital Port Charlotte
Halifax Health Medical Center of Daytona Beach Daytona Beach
Homestead Hospital Homestead
Lakeland Regional Medical Center Lakeland
Manatee Memorial Hospital Bradenton
Mayo Clinic Jacksonville Jacksonville
NCH Downtown Naples Hospital Naples
North Florida Regional Medical Center Gainesville
Ocala Regional Medical Center Ocala
St. Joseph's Hospital Tampa

Floyd Medical Center
Mayo Clinic Health System in Waycross Waycross
North Fulton Regional Hospital Roswell
Redmond Regional Medical Center Rome
Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital of Atlanta Atlanta
St. Mary's Health Care System Athens

Castle Medical Center Kailua

Decatur Memorial Hospital Decatur
Holy Cross Hospital Chicago
Passavant Area Hospital Jacksonville
Presence Covenant Medical Center Urbana
Saint Anthony Hospital Chicago

Lutheran Hospital of Indiana Fort Wayne

Genesis Medical Center-Davenport Davenport
Mercy Medical Center-Des Moines Des Moines
UnityPoint Health - Allen Hospital Waterloo
UnityPoint Health - Trinity Regional Medical Center Fort Dodge

Hutchinson Regional Medical Center Hutchinson
Olathe Medical Center Olathe
Providence Medical Center Kansas City

Baptist Health Lexington Lexington
Frankfort Regional Medical Center Frankfort
Jennie Stuart Medical Center Hopkinsville
Saint Joseph East Lexington
St. Elizabeth Fort Thomas Fort Thomas
University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Hospital Lexington
Williamson ARH Hospital South Williamson

Eastern Maine Medical Center Bangor
Lincoln Health Damariscotta
MaineGeneral Medical Center Augusta

Holy Cross Hospital Silver Spring

Anna Jaques Hospital Newburyport
Baystate Medical Center Springfield
Heywood Hospital Gardner
Morton Hospital and Medical Center Taunton
Saint Vincent Hospital Worcester

Bronson Battle Creek Battle Creek
Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital Wyandotte
Munson Medical Center Traverse City.
Port Huron Hospital Port Huron.
Spectrum Health - Butterworth Hospital Grand Rapids
St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron Port Huron

Fairview Ridges Hospital Burnsville
Mayo Clinic Hospital - Rochester Rochester
Mercy Hospital Coon Rapids
Ridgeview Medical Center Waconia
St. Cloud Hospital Saint Cloud
Unity Hospital Fridley
University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview Minneapolis

Central Mississippi Medical Center Jackson
Crossgates River Oaks Hospital Brandon
Forrest General Hospital Hattiesburg
Magnolia Regional Health Center Corinth

Mercy Hospital Springfield Springfield

New Hampshire
Cheshire Medical Center Keene

New Jersey
Community Medical Center Toms River
Cooper University Health Care Camden
Kennedy Health System Cherry Hill
Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County Willingboro
Morristown Medical Center Morristown
Newton Medical Center Newton.
Raritan Bay Medical Center Perth Amboy
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital New Brunswick
Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton Hamilton
Saint Peter's University Hospital New Brunswick
Trinitas Regional Medical Center Elizabeth
Virtua Memorial Mount Holly
Virtua Voorhees Voorhees

New York
Alice Hyde Medical Center Malone
Cayuga Medical Center at Ithaca Ithaca
Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center Ogdensburg
Ellis Hospital Schenectady
Forest Hills Hospital Forest Hills
Franklin Hospital Valley Stream
Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center West Islip
Lutheran Medical Center Brooklyn
Maimonides Medical Center Brooklyn
Mercy Medical Center Rockville Centre
Montefiore New Rochelle New Rochelle
Peconic Bay Medical Center
Plainview Hospital Plainview
Queens Hospital Center Jamaica
Richmond University Medical Center Staten Island
Saratoga Hospital Saratoga Springs
Southside Hospital Bay Shore
St. Joseph Hospital Bethpage
White Plains Hospital Center White Plains
Winthrop-University Hospital Mineola
Wyckoff Heights Medical Center Brooklyn

North Carolina
Carolinas Medical Center-Lincoln Lincolnton
Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast Concord
Cone Health Greensboro
Duke Regional Hospital Durham
High Point Regional Health System High Point
Iredell Memorial Hospital Statesville
Maria Parham Medical Center Henderson
Mission Hospital Asheville
Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center Charlotte
Rutherford Regional Health System Rutherfordton
WakeMed Cary Hospital Cary
Wayne Memorial Hospital Goldsboro

Ashtabula County Medical Center Ashtabula
Good Samaritan Hospital Dayton
Lake Health Concord Township
Lakewood Hospital Lakewood
Licking Memorial Hospital Newark
Lutheran Hospital Cleveland
Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center Toledo
Mount Carmel Columbus
OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital Dublin
OhioHealth Grant Medical Center Columbus
University Hospitals Parma Medical Center Parma
ProMedica Flower Hospital Sylvania
ProMedica Toledo Hospital Toledo

Bay Area Hospital Coos Bay
McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center Springfield
Salem Hospital Salem
Sky Lakes Medical Center Klamath Falls
Asante Three Rivers Medical Center Grants Pass

Aria Health Philadelphia
Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center Johnstown
Excela Latrobe Area Hospital Latrobe
Holy Redeemer Hospital Meadowbrook
Meadville Medical Center Meadville
Penn Presbyterian Medical Center Philadelphia.
Schuylkill Medical Center - South Jackson Street Pottsville

Rhode Island
Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island Providence

South Carolina
Carolinas Hospital System Marion Mullins
Lexington Medical Center West Columbia
McLeod Regional Medical Center Florence
Novant Health Gaffney Medical Center Gaffney
Palmetto Health Baptist Columbia
Springs Memorial Hospital Lancaster

Hardin Medical Center Savannah
Jackson-Madison County General Hospital Jackson
Regional Hospital of Jackson Jackson
Brazosport Regional Health System Lake Jackson

Baylor University Medical Center Dallas
Brazosport Regional Health System Lake Jackson
Citizens Medical Center Victoria
Fort Duncan Regional Medical Center Eagle Pass
San Angelo Community Medical Center San Angelo
Seton Medical Center Austin Austin
Seton Medical Center Williamson Round Rock
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth Fort Worth
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas Dallas

McKay-Dee Hospital Center Ogden,

Inova Fairfax Hospital Falls Church
Mary Washington Hospital Fredericksburg,
Warren Memorial Hospital Front Roya

EvergreenHealth Kirkland
Harrison Medical Center Bremerton
PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center Bellingham
Providence Holy Family Hospital Spokane
Providence Regional Medical Center Everett Everett
Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital Spokane
St. Francis Hospital Federal Way
UW Medicine/Valley Medical Center Renton
Valley Hospital Spokane Valley
Yakima Regional Medical and Cardiac Center Yakima
Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital Yakima

West Virginia
Logan Regional Medical Center Logan
Saint Francis Hospital Charleston

Community Memorial Hospital Menomonee Falls
Mercy Hospital and Trauma Center Janesville
St. Joseph's Hospital Chippewa Falls

Wyoming Medical Center Casper

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