The 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. Single exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation causes hair loss, skin burns and cataracts.
The FDA recommends two areas to minimize radiation risk:
- Appropriate justification of the radiation procedure; and
- Optimization of the radiation dose used for each procedure
To meet these goals, the FDA will work to issue guidelines for manufacturers of these radiation-emitting devices to create safeguards and appropriate training protocols. Further, health care providers will work with the FDA to implement quality assurance standards.
One of the most important parts of this process is, of course, the patients. Patients should discuss the risks of any procedure involving radiation with their doctors. The FDA is working to develop a patient medical imaging history card, which (if used properly) will better enable physicians to understand the lifetime radiation history of patients, and enable them to better inform patients as to the real risks of subsequent exposure.
The press release focused mostly on the CT images and fluoroscopy, and did not seem to address the procedures for radiopharmaceuticals (nuclear medicine studies), though perhaps that is subsumed in the section on protocols for health care providers who perform imaging services. But, the manufacturers of those pharmaceuticals should also be part of the discussion.