August 25, 2011
Technical and procedural approaches are being taken at both John C. Lincoln Hospitals to further reduce patient radiation exposure during medical imaging.
"We have always tailored our programs to be compliant with 'ALARA,' the principle that radiation exposure should be As Low As Reasonably Achievable," said North Mountain Radiology medical director Howard B. Fleishon, MD, who is also the hospital's radiation safety officer.
"In recent years, however," Dr. Fleishon added, "radiation safety in medical imaging for adults and for children has gained a higher profile."
Both John C. Lincoln Hospitals are participating in two awareness programs: Image Wisely for adults and Image Gently for pediatrics.
Image Wisely is an awareness program of the American College of Radiology, the Radiological Society of North America, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists and the American Association of Physicists in Medicine. It was launched with the objective of lowering the amount of radiation used in medically necessary imaging studies and eliminating unnecessary procedures.
Image Gently is an initiative of the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, founded by The Society for Pediatric Radiology, the American Association of Physicists in Medicine, the American College of Radiology and the American Society of Radiologic Technologists. The campaign is raising awareness about the need to "child-size" radiation exposure in order to significantly reduce the risk of harm to pediatric patients.
North Mountain and Deer Valley Hospitals have created a collaborative team to address radiation safety concerns. This group is headed by the Radiation Safety Officers from North Mountain and Deer Valley, Dr. Fleishon and Deer Valley radiologist John T. James, DO.
"It is the goal to have processes in place which can foster a better understanding of the risks of diagnostic radiation and precautions that may be undertaken to minimize risks to patients and employees," Dr. James said. "Some of these goals can be accomplished through hardware as well as educating ordering clinicians and operators."
In March, each hospital acquired two 16-slice CT scanners with specialized filters and a step function that allow radiation dosage to be adjusted and reduced without compromising the quality of medical imaging. Applications training was provided at both hospitals along with the new equipment installations. As a result of the capabilities of the new scanners and by following the recommendations from the Image Wisely and Image Gently initiatives, overall radiation exposure per exam has been reduced approximately 25 percent, Dr. Fleishon reported.
In addition, he said, North Mountain has also lowered the radiation dose to trauma patients needing 'delay' imaging of the liver and kidneys. Delayed scanning can pick up traumatic injuries not seen on the initial scan because of the contrast enhancement.
"Since this is a site specific exam," said Ginger Penick, director of CT and MRI at North Mountain, "we can reduce the dosage for the second scan, when we take additional images through the liver and kidneys. Now when we 'scan' through the liver and kidneys a second time, we are again reducing the radiation dose from the original scan which has already been reduced from what we were previously doing."
Another huge radiation dose reduction is in protocols for biopsies and abscess drainages. The new scanners also have a newer sequence that is faster and more efficient. "With this new sequence," Dr. Fleishon said, "we have been able to reduce the radiation dose during a procedure by approximately 70 percent!"
The staff and radiologists of both Medical Imaging departments are excited about these advances. They provided added safety and benefits to John C. Lincoln patients as the staff strives to deliver state of the art and safe diagnostic medical imaging and intervention.
Through the work of the joint radiation safety team, both departments will continue to modify and improve their equipment and applications to meet the needs and challenges of the Health Network.
For more information on John C. Lincoln's radiology services visit JCL.com/medicalimaging.
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