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Radiation Doses and the "Image Gently" Pledge

 

As concerns mount about Americans' exposure to radiation from a lifetime of diagnostic radiologic tests, The Valley Hospital has teamed up with several national organizations to reduce the amount of radiation that patients, especially children, receive during CT scans and other imaging tests.

"There is no question that these tests provide valuable information about patients' medical conditions, and that they are absolutely necessary in many cases to make a quick, life-saving diagnosis," says John Timpanaro, RT, supervisor of CT scanning in Valley's Department of Diagnostic Imaging. "That is why we are a proud sponsor of the national Image GentlyTM campaign to use the lowest dose of radiation possible during children's CT scans that will give us a good quality image."

Image GentlyTM was launched by the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, a coalition of 500,000 health care providers in radiology, pediatrics, medical physics, and radiation safety. The overall goals of Image GentlyTM are to educate radiology providers to "child-size" radiation doses and to increase awareness among referring pediatricians and other physicians about ordering alternatives to CT scans when appropriate.

As a sponsoring Image GentlyTM facility, The Valley Hospital pledges to:

  • significantly reduce the amount of radiation used;
  • scan only when necessary;
  • scan only the part of the body necessary to the test; and
  • scan once instead of using tests with and without contrast material (multi-phase scanning is rarely helpful in children, studies have found).

CT scans are the largest contributor to medical radiation dose in the United States, according to www.imagegently.org. Because CT scans and other imaging tests have replaced the need for more invasive procedures, children and adults are more exposed to radiation over their lifetimes than ever before in history. The population of the United States is second only to Japan in per capital CT exams performed, with 7 million CT scans being performed in children every year in the U.S. About one-third of these are performed in children under 10 years old.

Children are more sensitive to radiation received from CT scans than adults because of their small bodies.

"At Valley, our radiologists and radiology professionals are working together to reduce radiation exposure and to educate referring physicians as to the most appropriate imaging test for each child," says Timpanaro. "Sometimes an MRI, which does not expose a child to radiation, can be substituted for a CT scan."

In other efforts to reduce radiation dosage during CT scans, Valley's Department of Diagnostic Imaging just completed a pilot study of the American College of Radiology's Dose Index Registry. The registry collected brain, head, and general CT dose information from Valley and 20 other participating facilities and then compared their dose values on the regional and national level. Valley, the other participants, and the American College of Radiology received periodic feedback reports comparing results. The pilot study has now been launched nationwide, and data collected will be used to establish national benchmarks for safe CT radiation dosages.

"Another effort we have introduced to reduce radiation dosage during CT scanning is our use of breast shields made out of bismuth, a material that absorbs about 30 percent of radiation to the breast," says Timpanaro. "These shields enable us to protect patients' breasts while we visualize the heart and lungs."

For more information about the Image GentlyTM campaign, visit www.imagegently.org.

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