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Medical imaging

FINALLY: NIH takes a step to track radiation exposure from medical tests

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: medical imaging, radiation, health news

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(NaturalNews) Many Americans are exposed to atomic bomb levels of radiation (https://www.naturalnews.com/025767_Radiation_...) over their lifetimes, thanks to the medical industry's determination to push radiation imaging techniques like mammography and CT scans on the healthy as well as the ill. In fact, over the past three decades, Americans' exposure to radiation through common medical tests has soared six-fold. But although it is a well-known scientific fact that radiation exposure, which is cumulative, increases the risk of cancer, government scientists have failed to warn the public about the dangers of repeated tests involving radiation, claiming the specific risk level is unknown.

Now, finally, researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center have decided radiation dose exposure reports should be included in patients' electronic medical records. According to an article in the February issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology (JACR), the NIH researchers hope this effort will result in an eventual accurate assessment of cancer associated with low-dose radiation exposure from medical imaging tests.

"The cancer risk from low-dose medical radiation tests is largely unknown. Yet it is clear that the U.S. population is increasingly being exposed to more diagnostic-test-derived ionizing radiation than in the past," David A. Bluemke, MD, lead author of the article and director of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at the NIH Clinical Center, said in a statement to the press. "One widely publicized appraisal of medical radiation exposure suggested that about 1.5 to 2 percent of all cancers in the USA might be caused by the clinical use of CT alone."

A new radiation reporting policy

To attempt to document the amount of radiation exposure patients receive from medical tests, the radiology and nuclear medicine experts at the NIH Clinical Center have come up with a radiation reporting policy that involves the major radiation equipment vendors, starting with keeping track of exposures from CT and PET/CT scans. "All vendors who sell imaging equipment to Radiology and Imaging Sciences at the NIH Clinical Center will be required to provide a routine means for radiation dose exposure to be recorded in the electronic medical record. This requirement will allow cataloging of radiation exposures from these medical tests," said Dr. Bluemke. In addition, the NIH will now require that vendors make sure that radiation exposure can be tracked by patients in their own personal health records.

Dr. Bluemke added that this approach is consistent with the American College of Radiology's and Radiological Society of North America's official stance that "patients should keep a record of their X-ray history". You read that correctly. Patients themselves are currently supposed to keep up with how much radiation they've been bombarded with, according to the radiology industry.

What's more, the NIH's new pronouncement that requires radiation testing vendors to keep track of how much radiation they expose patients to only applies to people receiving screening or testing through the NIH. "We encourage all medical imaging facilities to include similar requirements for radiation-dose-reporting outputs from the manufacturers of radiation-producing medical equipment," Dr. Bluemke said.

So the new NIH policy does not mean other medical centers and hospitals that use medical imaging are now required to keep records of how much radiation they are zapping patients with -- the government is only encouraging these facilities to follow through on this recommendation. Bottom line: the only real protection from excessive medical radiation is for people to take control of their own health, to ask questions of any doctor who wants to order these tests, and to avoid any and all unnecessary radiation imaging testing.

For more information:
http://www.jacr.org/article/S1546-1440(09)00362-7/ tests

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