Overexposure To Radiation At One Of Our Nation's Most Revered Institutions

The Huffington Post—October 21, 2009

A recent ABC News story reported that the FDA issued an alert urging hospitals nationwide to review their safety protocols for CT scans.

Why? An unfortunate group of patients who had CT scans at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles received eight times the normal dose of radiation during a CT brain perfusion scan. The overdose was discovered when a patient reported lost patches of hair following a CT scan. The improperly programmed CT machine had not been checked for 18 months.

An incorrectly programmed CT machine going unchecked for 18 months is hard to accept. Patients depend on professional, competent regulatory oversight. Most accredited hospitals must adhere to strict Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) regulations. JCAHO sets standards and issues accreditation to those healthcare organizations that meet those standards.

In 2008, New York City Department of Health and Office of Radiological Health performed a week long comprehensive review of Hospital for Special Surgery's entire radiology program for QA/QC policies, procedures, radiation safety, physicist reports, equipment calibration and ongoing monitoring. At the end of the inspection, the Radiology Department received accolades for its performance and a 100% satisfactory score.

All imaging centers and physician's offices that have CT, MRI and X-Ray equipment should be required to go through a similar review process. Imaging centers and doctors who self-refer to their own in-office X-ray and imaging equipment should be held to the same standards as hospitals or risk being shut down in the name of patient safety. Such measures, however, will not be put into place until 2012.

Patients - a few words of advice. It will take two years before Imaging Centers will be forced to go through the ACR accreditation process. There are varying regulations by states' departments of health regarding safety standards for imaging centers and owners of in-office equipment. With that in mind, the next time your physician asks you to walk down the hall for an MRI, X-Ray or CT scan, ask about radiation protocols, who will be conducting the examination and who will be reading the results. These questions may not make your physician happy, but you will be taking critical steps to help ensure you receive safer, higher quality patient care.

Read the full story at huffingtonpost.com.

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