Tuesday, July 10, 2012
“We’ve developed a a collaborative approach to monitor and document radiation doses and to follow up with patients accordingly.”
Lisa Mowry, Radiation Safety Officer, Trident Health
While new technologies offer many advantages in pinpointing and diagnosing medical problems, Trident Health is taking extra steps to prevent patients from receiving too much radiation as a result.
The risk of injury from radiation exposure during medical procedures is minimal for most patients. Yet, a series of articles in recent years by New York Times reporter Walt Bogdanich called “The Radiation Boom” has led the national medical community to take a closer look at how to safeguard patient safety in this area.
Trident Health has emerged as a local leader with Lisa Mowry serving as its full-time radiation safety officer.
“We’ve developed a system – and it’s really a collaborative approach between the physicians, the technologists and myself, as a radiation safety officer – to monitor and document radiation doses and to follow up with patients accordingly,” says Mowry.
One area of focus for Trident Health is setting limits for radiation doses for computed axial topography scans (CAT scans or CT scans). CT scans are produced by using special X-ray tools in combination with advanced computer technology. Uses of CT scans include looking for broken bones, blood clots, internal bleeding, signs of heart dis- ease and cancer.
There are no regulatory limits as to how much radiation exposure a patient can receive, and a physician always considers the risk of radiation exposure versus the benefit of the information available from having the procedure. But because repeated high exposures over time can increase the lifetime risk of developing cancer, Trident Health is striving to make doses as low as reason- ably achievable (ALARA).
Changes might involve simple adjustments to positioning of the patient during a scan or more extensive protocol revisions, Mowry says. “Working closely with our medical physicist, we were able to determine an acceptable radiation dose threshold level specific to each exam that should not be exceeded.”
Another area of focus for Trident Health is the radiation exposure that patients receive as a result of fluoroscopy, which is important in diagnosing and repairing heart problems as well as opening blocked arteries. Fluoroscopy shows a continuous X-ray image of the patient’s body on a monitor, something like an X-ray movie, and allows cardi- ologists to direct a catheter through blood vessels.
Employees are also encouraged to weigh the importance of tests and procedures that involve radiation and consider possible alternatives or other ways to minimize exposure. This extends to patients of all ages, and especially to children, who may be more likely than adults to develop cancer later on as a result of radiation.
Knowing that Trident Health can only monitor the radiation doses patients receive within its health system, it encourages patients to use the Medical Imaging History card offered through the national Image Wisely campaign. Go to imagewisely.org to learn more about the campaign and download a printout of the card, which should be filled out each time you have an imaging procedure.
For health questions or a free physician referral, please call 843-797-3463.