Medical Imaging – Radiation Safety and Quality

October 14, 2015

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Joyce Graff recently attended the Global Summit on Radiological Quality and Safety (GSRQS).

Fifty-two leading radiologists from countries on five continents participated in the meeting in Barcelona.  Joyce was the sole patient advocate attending.

Robin and Joyce talk about the outcome of the meeting, and the progress being made in medical imaging, and particularly in the areas of radiological quality and safety.

Interested in how much radiation we get from different sources? See http://www.ans.org/pi/resources/dosechart/

If you are concerned, and especially if you are getting a lot of medical radiation from tests and treatments, you can keep track of your own radiation exposure. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA, Vienna, Austria) has recommended the use of a Smart Card in Europe. However you can create a written log of your own exposures by recording the Who/What/Where/Why/When of each of your own scans:
1. Who is performing the scan? (name of technician and radiologist, and if possible the Manufacturer and model number of the machine used.)
2. What organ is being studied?
3. Where is the scan performed? (hospital, department, or other facility)
4. Why has this study been ordered? What is the medical question you want answered?
5. When was the scan performed? (date and time)
6. What amount of radiation was delivered during this scan? The newer machines will report this number and in most cases will write it into the computer metadata that accompanies the image file. You can ask the technician to read you this value.

If you can’t get the actual number (item 6 above), it is possible to estimate the radiation dose based on four key elements: your age, sex, weight, and the organ being studied. Even going back and writing down all your scans can help you estimate your total radiation exposure.

It is important to emphasize that while we have a lot yet to learn about the impact of the sum of these small doses of radiation, we are only concerned, not alarmed. Medical imaging, properly performed, does not expose you to dangerous levels. Collection of this information is for your own information, and to provide us with data that could be analyzed in the future to get a better handle on the situation.

Older machines in poor repair or not properly operated can present problems. Such situations should be avoided. For children, ask whether the hospital is using the “Image Gently” guidelines. There are usually posters in the children’s area of the hospital when these guidelines are in use.

Posted by JoyceGraff
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