Cataract Formation and Low-Dose Radiation Exposure from Head Computed Tomography (CT) Scans in Ontario, Canada, 1994–2015
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Ionizing radiation exposure to the lens of the eye is a known cause of cataractogenesis. Administrative data from the Ontario Health Insurance Program was used to examine the association between low-dose radiation exposure from head CT scans and cataract extraction surgery for 16 million Ontarians over a 22-year period (1994-2015). Subjects were grouped based on the number of head CT scans they received, and a Cox proportional hazards analysis was used to determine if there was a correlation with cataract surgery. Covariates included in the analysis were age, sex, diabetes, hypertension and prior history of intraocular surgery. To account for the potentially long latency period between radiation exposure and cataract formation, the data were analyzed incorporating a 5- and 10-year lag between head CT scan exposure and cataract surgery. Both the 5- and 10-year lagged models followed a similar trend, where only the first three head CT scans significantly increased the risk of cataract surgery by 3-8%. Individuals receiving four or more head CT scans did not have an increased cataract risk and in several cases the risk was reduced. Overall, no positive dose-response relationship was seen between the number of head CT scans received and the risk of cataract surgery. Due to the nature of the data extracted from medical records, several uncertainties exist in the analysis related to dosimetry, ultraviolet light exposure and smoking status. Nonetheless, these results do not support an association between ionizing radiation from repeated head CT scans and cataract formation.
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