Getting physicians to think seriously about radiation exposure

I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog that I’m concerned about the levels of radiation patients are being exposed to as a result of medical imaging, especially CT. Radiologists and referring physicians haven’t taken the issue too seriously because:

  • The scans are useful and, of course, well reimbursed
  • They weren’t aware of the issue
  • There’s generally no easy way to track how much radiation patients have been exposed to

I’ve reported on anecdotal evidence of radiation exposure in the past, and ways to reduce dosages by adjusting scanners. Now a study has reported overall information on exposure. The numbers are high: per capita exposure is up 6x since 1980, and it’s disproportionately due to CT.

Consciousness raising among physicians is a good first step, but patients need to keep track of their own exposure and work in conjunction with their physicians to balance risks and benefits. One thing that’s really unacceptable is having a scan repeated because a previous one is lost or inaccessible.
I’ve always thought one good use of a personal health record is to keep track of lifetime radiation exposure, even if the numbers are just estimates. (The real figures would be even better.) I haven’t seen this functionality yet, though maybe it exists somewhere.

April 26, 2007

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