New Era in CT scanning

More than 400 cases of radiation overexposure from CT scan in 8 hospitals, many suffering hair loss and skin injuries including as well a child of less than 2 years getting 150 times more radiation dose- these are newest situations never encountered before even though CT has been around since 1972 and the technology has been considered safe. Manufacturers, radiologists and radiographers never imagined that software problems that keep on getting reported from time to time with high tech radiotherapy machines resulting in serious incidents could ever occur with very well behaved CT machines.

Six years ago it was not easy to spot a case of either accidental exposure to patient in CT scan or a patient having skin injury from CT scans. With almost 115 years gone by, after the discovery of X rays by Roentgen, the current interest in radiation protection seems to be what it would have been about a century ago. This follows a period of almost half century (from 1930’s to 1980’s) when X rays started to be considered safe enough, making some health professionals rather complacent.

The recent spurt in interest comes from visible effects of radiation (skin injuries), but CT has also been much in news during the current decade for potential long term effects predominantly cancer.

It must be emphasized that the benefits of use of X rays including CT are enormous and overall outweigh the risks. Unfortunately, complacency that sets in on safety without accidental events needs to be corrected and that will bring back the public confidence.

The manufacturers have been much aware about the need to contribute their bit and have been competing with each other to produce CT machines that have better and better dose management features each year. While this is a good sign, the recent events of CT equipment not behaving the way it is supposed to and leading to events as stated above requires immediate and urgent attention on their part. The manufacturers have responded to call by FDA and have committed to provide new radiation dose check features that will alert CT machine operators when radiation dose levels – as determined by hospitals and imaging centers will be exceeded. The radiation dose upper-limit alert (or warning) will notify operators when an error may have occurred in setting parameters. This feature can be configured to prevent a CT scan from occurring.

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