Radiation From Imaging a Growing Concern


“We have to think and talk explicitly about the elements of danger in exposing our patients to radiation,” wrote Dr. Lauer. Physicians will need to take a careful history to assess the cumulative dose of radiation that a specific patient has already received. This specific risk should be conveyed to the patient.

The study authors acknowledged the long-term risk, but noted that restricting patient dose—as is done for nuclear workers—is not feasible. “The exposure of patients cannot be restricted, largely because of the inherent difficulty in balancing the immediate clinical need for these procedures, which is frequently substantial, against stochastic risks of cancer that would not be evident for years, if at all.”

Dr. Fazel reported that she has no relevant conflicts of interest, though several of her coauthors reported significant relationships with pharmaceutical and medical imaging companies. Dr. Lauer reported that he has no relevant conflicts of interest.

Almost 80% of women had at least one imaging procedure in a 3-year period.


NIH to Track Imaging Device Radiation

The National Institutes of Health will require new CT and PET equipment purchased by the agency's clinical center to routinely record the patient's radiation dose in their hospital-based electronic medical record.

“The [NIH] Clinical Center's approach is an important first step in making it possible to more easily document and track information about a patient's exposure to radiation,” Dr. John I. Gallin, director of the center, said in a statement.

The risks associated with exposure to low doses of radiation from medical imaging tests are unknown. However, the effects of radiation exposure are cumulative over a lifetime. The ability to track a person's radiation exposure will help researchers evaluate the health risks of these procedures.

The center plans to work with its vendors to develop software tools to extract the type of examination, the date, and the radiation dose for uploading to an electronic health record.

Both the American College of Radiology and the Radiological Society of North America recommend that patients keep a record of their x-ray history, according to the NIH statement.


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