Whay do you know about VCUGs? Medical Radiation?

Hey guys.

I’m wondering about VCUGs. Hopefully some of you are maybe xray techs or something and can share your experience and knowledge.

I’m 21. When I was younger, according to my medical records I had about 5-6 VCUGs. Apparently they started when I was 4, so first being in 1996 and I then I had one every 8-11 months after that until I was 8 or 9. This was for reflux, obviously.

Now here’s the issue. I am scared to death of the unknown doses of radiation I absorbed. I have emailed radiologists and pressed them for questions. They all tell me it’s not a big deal and not to worry, but it’s hard not to. I think now they (VCUGs) are not such a big deal because the technology has added pulsed, digital fluoroscopy and just better equipment and the doses are way smaller.

When I read about the dose concerns with CT scans and fluoroscopy, I don’t understand how these VCUGs are supposed to be okay. Like, they are fluoroscopy. I can’t find much on the internet stating they are outright dangerous, but keeping in mind that I had these studies done in the mid-late 90s, I find medical journals stating doses that are from like 5-10MSV per procedure. How is that okay? To make things more complicated, the last radiologist i mailed said they were probably no more than 4msv back then, but then how do you explain all these journals?

Should I be worried? I’m really hoping some of you guys have medical backgrounds because it is so hard to find people to talk about this. I am worried everyday. I live in Canada a few hours north of Toronto in a city called Sudbury. The hospital i went to was kind of old and dingey, and I remember watching one of the VCUGs as it was happening on an old monitor, probably a CRT. Which apparently doesn’t say anything about the fluoroscopy equipment itself according to a radiologist, but I’m still curious about second opinions.

Thanks for your help.

I used to work in pediatric cardiology, and know children who had many heart catheterizations with fluoroscopy, more than what you had in terms of VCUGs. Plus you get, on average, 2.4 mSv/year just by living, so you had maybe the equivalent of 2-4 years’ worth of background ambient radiation per procedure. Someone who flies a lot for a living would get a whole lot more than that just by being on planes over the course of the career, but no one ever wonders about the cancer risks of being a pilot or being a frequent flier.

I’m honestly wondering, though, why you think random people on a message board may be more comforting or informative than what you’ve learned so far from your apparently extensive research? What kind of answer can we give that a radiologist can’t?

Why worry?
What’s done is done - there’s no point in worrying about it.
FWIW, I had 3 CAT scans, a cardiac catheterization, a nuclear stress test, and many chest x-rays all in the space of a year, for a total dose of 30+ mSv. I don’t like the idea of all that radiation, but - what the hell, it saved my life.

Thanks for the reply.

Yeah, it is weird to come to a forum unrelated and ask about it. But it seems pretty decent for traffic and was hoping I would attract the attention of some second opinions from people in the medical field.

It is scary when you plug it in to something like http://www.xrayrisk.com even though I am more often than not told to not worry. I’m just trying to learn and gather as much as I can, I suppose.

Also, I am a frequent flier. :wink:

Bottom line is that no one knows what your exact risks are. Non-zero but small, significant on a population basis. The younger the age the more the dose the bigger the risk. Risk needs to be worth some gain. Fact is that many of the VCUGs done a decade or so ago would not be done by today’s guidelines.

Hm. Thanks.

Does anyone know if it’s normal to not have gonadal shields? I don’t think i ever got them during the VCUGs…but always a big lead vest during normal xrays.

And would you consider a smoking habit worse or riskier than these VCUGs?

Smoking way worse. For females shielding the ovaries would block the view.

Sorry, I should have made clear that I am a male.

The thing you need to take into account is that low doses of radiation are poorly understood.

There are two main theories : one is based on linear extrapolation. If a dose of 1 unit of radiation has a 10% chance of giving you cancer, therefore a dose of 0.1 must be a 1% chance of cancer.

The other theory is that it’s nonlinear. Living cells have control mechanisms to respond to radiation (the cell commits suicide if it detects too much damage), and the gist of it is that low doses of radiation are possibly near harmless.

The final thing is that ultimately, developing a tumor that may kill you is a probability function. It will happen to everyone alive if they don’t die from something else first.

The long of the short of it, the radiation exposure wasn’t good, but the odds are extremely low that it will be what kills you.

Actually, there are some who hypothesize that low doses of radiation might even actually be good for you. It’s difficult to test, though, because the effects either way are very small (if they even exist), and background radiation is difficult to control for.

Perhaps it should be pointed out that the phenomenon that small doses of an agent that is harmful in large doses are beneficial, known as hormesis, is known to occur in a wide variety of cases, so it’s not unreasonable to suppose that it’s the case for radiation as well. The basic idea seems to be that the natural defense mechanisms against harmful agents need a bit of stimulation to get ramped up in certain cases.