Overexposure to Radiation During CT Scans?

An article published on July 31, 2010 in the New York Times revealed that during the past year over 400 patients nationwide have received a higher-than-expected dose of radiation during a specific CT scan, called a CT brain perfusion scan, which has led to hair loss in a circular pattern around the head, headaches, memory loss, and confusion.

This article comes after the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcement in April 2010 that it was taking steps to reduce overdoses and other errors in radiation therapy by strengthening the approval process for new radiotherapy equipment. The FDA announcement followed several other reports and studies during the last 10 months that have shed light on the prevalence of radiation overexposure during various types of CT scans. Such overexposure can lead to an increased risk of certain cancers and brain tumors in addition to other symptoms of radiation exposure such as hair loss, erythema, nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, weakness, and fever.

The FDA investigation was prompted in no small part by a December 2009 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that estimated that radiation from CT procedures causes 29,000 new cancers and 14,500 deaths a year. Later that month, the Archives published a second study that concluded that the problem could be even worse than originally thought because calculations showed that patients actually get four times as much radiation from imaging tests as previously believed.

Accordingly, amid growing concerns about the unnecessary and possibly repetitive exposure of millions of patients to radiation, there has been a recent push from federal regulators, radiology groups and hospitals to reduce the use of CT scans as well as the dose of radiation so as to avoid increasing the patients risk for developing cancer in the future.

Causes of the overexposure can range from human error on the part of the CT scan operator because of inadequate training to manufacturers not providing sufficient safeguards on the equipment.

If you think that you or a loved one is suffering from overexposure to radiation from a CT scan, please contact Pogust Braslow & Millrood for a free consultation.