Articles Posted in CT Scan Radiation Exposure

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This week in Maryland, the manufacturers of radiology equipment met to discuss the planned fail-safe devices for machines set to be sold in the next two years. The goal is to create machines with software that prevents or minimizes errors in radiation dosage.

Radiation overdose is not just an abstract concern, but can cause real injuries and death—see an article by the New York Times about radiation accidents and a 43-year-old man who was rendered deaf, visually impaired, burned, and with ulcers in his mouth and neck before he finally succumbed to radiation-caused injuries.

Some “fixes” that need to be instituted are ways to ensure the radiation is properly directed and that the radiation dose is age-appropriate. Many machines used now rely on the technologist’s discretion for when and how to perform these safety checks. New machines will make the process mandatory at set intervals.

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Colonoscope-03-31-10.jpgNews reports in the past couple of days have hit on part two of the CT radiation overexposure inquiry. Before, the issue was whether certain CT devices because of manufacturing, design, or technician error, provided too much radiation to patients. A secondary question was whether patients were receiving too much radiation through scans over the course of their lives (the FDA reports that the average person’s radiation exposure has doubled in the last thirty years).

Now, the question is focused on whether CT scans are a good idea for screening purposes where a patient has no indication that they have any disease—the three that have been most mentioned are whole-body CTs (to see if there is anything wrong); CT colonoscopy (to detect colon cancer), and CT scans of the heart (to detect heart disease). Most of the debate has been centered around the colonoscopy procedure.

On one side are those who believe that traditional methods—a colonoscopy, are best to detect colon cancer. Proponents (including the American College of Gastroenterology, who come out on the side of their financial interests in the question) state that CT colonoscopies are not as certain as the traditional visual colonoscopy; that removal of polyps would require a second procedure with a CT colonoscopy (versus being done at the same time in the traditional procedure), and those incidental findings on a CT scan may lead to unnecessary procedures. Additionally, repeating these scans increases patient exposure to radiation.

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Radiopharmaceuticals%20BETA-02-10-10%29.JPGThe FDA issued a press release Tuesday focusing on unnecessary radiation exposure from CT scans, nuclear medicine studies (use of radiopharmaceuticals taken internally creates the radiation, unlike an x-ray, which bombards the body with radiation externally) and fluoroscopy (process to see real-time moving images of internal structures).

The FDA reports that these three types of diagnostic imaging use ionizing radiation, which can increase lifetime cancer risks. A single exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation causes hair loss, skin burns, and cataracts.

The FDA recommends two areas to minimize radiation risk:

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Instead of doing our usual Monday Drug Blog Round-Up yesterday, we opted for a fuller post on the recent plaintiffs’ pain pump victory in Oregon. For more on that story, see the Oregonian. So, today we’ll bring you the links to the stories we’re following:

  • Direct-to-Consumer Advertising: FiercePharma lists the top ten drugs for a percentage of web-based traffic from DTC ads. YAZ is seventh, even “better” than Viagra.
  • Radiation Therapy Malpractice: Pat Malone reports on the dangers of technology, training, and procedures in radiation therapy: “Scott Jerome-Parks suffered terrible radiation burns to his neck, and lingered for two years in agony before dying, because he received a seven-fold overdose in the radiation that was supposed to treat his tongue cancer, on three separate occasions.”
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Radiation-01-06-10.jpgThe FDA is making temporary recommendations about Perfusion CT scans. We first wrote about the concern of excessive radiation exposure in our December 16, 2009 post.

The recommendations include:

  • Facilities assess whether patients who underwent CT perfusion scans received excess radiation
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There are over 70 million CT scans performed in the United States every year. The FDA is investigating problems with overexposure to radiation by CT scans. This is an ongoing problem everywhere but is complicated by significant overexposure of special types of CT scans (called perfusion CTs) at two hospitals.

First, some background: CT scans (also called CAT scans, or computerized tomography) is an x-ray that uses radiation to visualize internal structures of the body through a cross-section of images (unlike the flat images of normal x-rays). One CT scan is equivalent to about 100 chest x-rays. One perfusion CT scan (used to examine blood vessels and often used to diagnose stroke or aneurysm) is equivalent to several hundred chest x-rays.
Sample Perfusion CT

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