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Excess Radiation Exposes CT Scan Patients to Memory and Hair Loss and Possibly Cancer

Excess radiation leaves a ring of baldness on Becky Coudert's scalpWhen school teacher Becky Coudert started losing her hair and had trouble with her memory, she was told she may have received up to 14 times the radiation required during her CT brain scan. Coudert soon filed a class-action lawsuit against G.E Healthcare, the manufacturers of the scanning equipment, for allegedly exposing her and possibly hundreds of other patients to excess radiation. 

The FDA recently found that hundreds of patients in Los Angeles and Huntsville were provided with roughly eight times the recommended radiation levels from the CT perfusion scans, used to check for blockages and injuries in the brain.

Coudert’s attorney, who represents 15 other similar cases in Huntsville, said they cannot determine if human error was a factor. However, officials at the Huntsville Hospital in Alabama are in the process of notifying 60 other patients who may have been over exposed to radiation.

The suit is asking the company for at least $5 million to cover the medical bills and other damages for patients exposed to excess radiation during the exams. It argues that the effects of over-radiation go beyond hair loss and may not become apparent for another 10 or 20 years, but that the genetic material of the brain cells was immediately damaged.

CT Scan leads to woman's hair lossHair follicles are very sensitive to radiation therapy. Cancer patients often suffer hair loss as a result of their treatment within about three weeks after the start of radiation. However, one Jackson County woman, who did not wish to be named, says her hair started to fall out within a few days of the CT scan. It eventually formed a ring of baldness around her head, similar to Becky’s. Another woman said she had trouble remembering her name when logging into her email account following her CT scan.

Although some studies claim that “in comparison to our normal daily exposures from naturally occurring background radiation and daily activities, the exposures from medical [imaging] procedures are quite small”, more recent studies have been published that raise concerns about the risks of radiation.

According to the studies, radiation doses from CT scans are higher than previously thought and vary widely. Based on information from four San Francisco-area hospitals, median effective doses ranged from 2 mSv for a routine head scan to 31 mSv for a multiphase abdomen and pelvis scan. But radiation doses as low as 10 mSv have been linked to an increased cancer risk.*

*CT Scan Radiation May Lead to 29,000 Cancers, Researchers Warn

More Information:
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27th January, 2010 at 12:54 am


I lost my hair after ct scans will it come back or should i be looking for a wig?

2nd February, 2010 at 2:54 am


Hi Diane, The men and women affected in the case presented above received up to 14 times the safe level of radiation. Under normal circumstances it is very rare, if not impossible, to lose hair due to CT scans. It is unlikely that you should need to consider a wig as there are hair loss treatments available that are likely to prove more effective. However, depending on a few other factors, you may not need to do anything. Radiation therapy causes localised hair loss but it usually grows back within a few months, provided the hair follicles are not scarred. Keep in mind that hair loss is very often a multi-factorial condition, particularly in women, and that there may be other elements influencing hair growth patterns. If normal hair growth does not resume, or you are quite concerned about your current hair loss, I would encourage you to visit the centre for a consultation or take advantage of our online consultation service to pinpoint the true cause and identify what you can do to get your hair back on track.

28th June, 2018 at 9:51 pm


I had six ct scans within six weeks, now my hair is coming out, I use to have thick hair now now each time I comb my hair it cmes out, is there anyway to stop this?

2nd July, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Sarah Belgravia

Hi Charlotte, this is quite common and is often due to a temporary condition called Telogen Effluvium. Whilst your shedding should stop of its own accord within a few months (no longer than six), treatment is available but if you have medical issues being treated or diagnosed, you would need to consult a specialist, who may also need to liaise with your GP or medical team, before deciding if this is appropriate for you.

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