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. 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:
- 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.
New 2023 Study on Radiation Side Effects
A new study suggests that frequent exposure to low doses of radiation from cancer treatments, CT scans, and certain jobs in the healthcare, aviation, and nuclear industries may increase the risk of heart disease. Previous research indicated that only high doses of radiation could cause cardiovascular disease, but this study found that lower doses could also be harmful.
The researchers reviewed 93 studies that examined radiation exposure at various levels, including exposure from cancer treatment, medical tests, and workplace environments. They found that the risk of cardiovascular disease increased at lower doses of radiation, with a maximum dose of 0.5 Gray units (Gy) or less being linked to higher risk.
Really Crazy Finding
According to the findings, the researchers found what is called an inverse dose effect for both ischemic heart disease and cardiovascular disease, meaning that the risk of those two ailments actually increased at lower doses of radiation exposure. Goodness, that is a paradox.
The study recommends more research.. and rethinking radiation protection and further research in this area.