The full-body scanners in airports are safe for everyone, including children and pregnant women. Different airports use different scanner types...

  • Millimeter radio wave scanners, which look like glass booths, bombard travelers with radio waves and collect the reflected waves to generate images. The radio energy projected is tens of thousands of times lower than the energy of radio waves generated by cell phones.
  • Backscatter scanners, which resemble two refrigerators, are the source of most people's concern. They use X-rays, but of a type that does not penetrate the body—the X-rays bounce off the body and are captured by detectors. This is fundamentally different from transmission X-rays, which are used in medical diagnosis. The radiation from backscatter systems is very low-a single scan is equal to about four to five minutes of air travel. An annual limit set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be reached if a person undergoes 2,500 or 5,000 scans per year, which is highly improbable.

Bottom line: Both of the new scanning systems are safe for everyone, but passengers who remain worried are entitled to refuse a scan and have a thorough pat-down instead.

Hospitals Make Misleading Claims About Robotic Surgery

Researchers studied 400 randomly chosen hospital Web sites to scrutinize their claims about robotic procedures, typically used in minimally invasive gynecological heart and prostate surgeries.

Result: Most sites (89%) that made claims about robotic surgery cited clinical superiority over traditional surgery even though there is no scientific evidence that robotic surgery is always better than conventional surgery. No sites mentioned any risks. Most (73%) used promotions from the robots' manufacturers.

Do You Need That MRI?

Did you know doctors who own or lease MRI equipment order more scans for low-back pain? The scan rate is 13% higher for patients of orthopedists and 32% higher for patients of primary care doctors who own the machines, compared with the rate for patients of doctors who don't own or lease the equipment.

Caution: There is no strong evidence that an MRI for nonspecific low-back pain improves long-term patient outcomes.

Where to Get the Best Care

States with the best hospital care at reasonable cost—North and South Dakota, followed by Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Iowa. At the bottom of the list are Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Nevada. Rankings were based on the number of hospital beds per 1,000 people, medical staffing levels, average daily cost of inpatient care and average annual spending on health-care services.

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