The recent revelations about patients receiving unnecessary doses of radiation offer a sobering reminder. The very ingredient responsible for the medical miracles made commonplace by diagnostic and therapeutic imaging must be carefully managed, monitored, tracked and double-checked.
CT makers tackling dosage woes
One medical error is too many, and that's why medical imaging manufacturers are committed to working with all parties responsible for patient care to minimize and hopefully eliminate human error.
As part of that commitment, CT manufacturers announced a new Dose Check Initiative in February. Manufacturers have a long history of reducing radiation dose in diagnostic imaging through new hardware and software innovations.
This new commitment is that all new CT products will include additional radiation safeguards: a new radiation dose alert and a radiation dose warning. Installing the new radiation dose-check feature will alert CT machine operators when recommended radiation dose levels—as determined by hospitals and imaging centers—will be exceeded.
The new radiation dose alert, or “yellow light,” is designed to provide a clear indication to healthcare providers when CT equipment adjustments made for a specific patient's exam would result in delivering a dose higher than the facility's dose threshold for routine use. This dose threshold, known as a “reference dose,” will be set by clinicians, enabling different machines used at different institutions or for different purposes to have customized alert levels.
Manufacturers are ready to work collaboratively with professional organizations, regulatory bodies and individual clinicians to implement this feature and to assist in establishing reference dose values.
Manufacturers will also include a new radiation dose warning, or “red light,” allowing hospitals and imaging facilities to set upper limits on radiation doses in order to prevent CT scanning at higher, potentially dangerous radiation levels. This feature is designed to prevent the use of hazardous levels of radiation that could lead to unintended injuries. Most importantly, this feature can be configured to prevent the machine from scanning at this higher dose level.
These new alert features build on a long history of advancing patient-safety measures such as efforts to integrate appropriateness criteria for diagnostic imaging into physician decisionmaking, mandatory accreditation for all imaging centers, and expanding training and education programs for imaging equipment operators.
Moreover, the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance recently announced its support of a national dose registry, uniform dose recording standards for imaging data and standardized reporting of medical errors across all imaging stakeholders.
The ability of physicians to see a clear image of the human body, produced by CT technology, has profoundly changed the way medicine is practiced. Countless lives have been saved. As we look to the future of healthcare in this country, we cannot see our way to better outcomes and lower costs without the lens that medical imaging provides.
Imaging manufacturers remain true to our pledge to ensure that all patients have access to the right scan—with the right radiation dose—at the right time.
David Fisher is the executive director of the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance.
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