Doctor’s warning over use of private brain scans

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PATIENTS having MOT-style brain scans offered by private companies to help identify health problems could end up having risky treatment they may never have needed, a Scottish expert will warn in a lecture.

Dr Rustam Al-Shahi Salman, from Edinburgh University’s Division of Clinical Neurosciences, said some firms in the UK were offering MRI scans of the brain as part of check-ups sometimes costing thousands of pounds.

But he said one consequence of this was scans picking up abnormalities which may never cause a problem to patients but which they choose to have ­treated – putting them at risk from the treatment.

The talk – Picturing Your Brain – is taking place at the National Museum of Scotland on the opening day of the ­Edinburgh Science Festival today.

Dr Salman said several firms were offering health checks, ranging from blood pressure and lifestyle ­advice to PSA tests for prostate cancer and CT scans.

But he said some companies also offered whole-body MRI scanning, including the brain.

“MRI scanning is safe because it doesn’t involve the use of radiation, but it may lead to the detection of these incidental findings,” Dr Salman said.

“The question is whether their detection and subsequent treatment does more good than harm.”

Dr Salman said the chance of an “incidental finding” was one patient in every 37 tested.