The Joint Commission returned the spotlight to patient radiation risks with a Sentinel Event Alert on the subject that invites the question of whether revised hospital accreditation standards may be coming down the line.
The alert issued Aug. 24 concerns the risks of most types of diagnostic radiation imaging, but the accreditation and quality group also is taking a look at the risks of therapeutic radiation and of the diagnostic treatment known as fluoroscopy, said Paul Schyve, senior adviser in healthcare improvement for the Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based Joint Commission.
The Joint Commission decided to issue the alert based on reports it received from hospitals, as well as because of media reports highlighting patients harmed by devices used for radiation treatment and diagnosis, Schyve said.
Given the risks and the growing popularity of CT scans and their ilk, the stakes are great. The alert notes that one study estimated that 29,000 future cancers and 14,500 future deaths could develop because of radiation from the 72 million CT scans performed in the U.S. in 2007. A separate study in the Nov. 29 issue of the journal Radiology found the number of annual emergency room visits that included CT scans increased by 500%—from 2.7 million to
16.2 million—between 1995 and 2007.