Experts urge government to control medical radiation dosing

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Congressional panel on Friday had a meeting with experts who urged The U.S. government to regulate national guidelines for the amount of radiation that patients receive during diagnosis and treatment.

Last fall, several cases of patients were reported to have toxic doses of radiation during diagnosis and treatments at hospitals in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. High doses of radiation can cause skin burns, cataracts and other injuries and even cancer and death in severe conditions. Computed Tomography (CT) has been spotlighted for being a source of high concentrations of radiation since it produces large amounts of X-ray during diagnosis other than regular X-rays."Oversight for CT radiation dosing is currently very fragmented," Dr. Rebecca Smith-Bindman, a professor of radiology at the University of California, San Francisco, told the House Committee on Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health in Washington.

"The Food and Drug Administration oversees the approval of the CT scanners as medical devices, but does not regulate how the test is used in clinical practice," she added. FDA announced earlier that it is about to apply changes on imaging devices that would include more obvious displays of the radiation doses or even installing alarms that gets activated when doses are high . FDA will discuss this issue in a public meeting on March 30-31. Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance, an industry group, said that studies in safety measures, including the use of a color system to give warnings when scans could harm patients will be carried out voluntarily. Dr.Smith-Bindman also addressed doctors saying that they are to lower the radiation doses during CT scans and try to use CT when necessary. "There is evidence that for many types of CTs the radiation dose can be reduced 50 percent or more without reducing quality," she said.

Another aspect of radiation problem is the lack of knowledge of radiology technologists about the hazards."The single most important contribution we can make to patient safety is to ensure that all personnel involved in the operation of CT systems meet nationally prescribed, minimum levels of training and competency," said Cynthia McCollough of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota to the congressional panel. Training programs for centers that use radiation therapy against cancer are to be carried out. This was requested by The American College of Radiology.

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