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As a condition of accreditation, hospitals and imaging clinics should track the radiation dosages of all CT scans and ensure that the doses are as low as possible, says Rita Redberg, MD.

In a Medscape Cardiology video (for which Medscape helpfully provides a transcript), she proposes that the Food and Drug Administration, or somebody, require such regulation:

Currently, the FDA oversees the approval of scanners, but it doesn’t have regulatory oversight for how they’re used. We need clear standards published by professional radiology societies or such organizations as The Joint Commission or the FDA.

Dr. Redberg, a cardiologist, is professor of medicine and director of women’s cardiovascular services at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center. She has been a longtime advocate of minimizing radiation dosage from imaging, most recently in an op-ed piece last month in the New York Times.

We reported earlier this month on that piece, titled “We Are Giving Ourselves Cancer.” Dr. Redberg co-wrote it with Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD, a radiologist at the UCSF Medical Center.

In the video, which expands on the Times article, Dr. Redberg mentions a study done several years ago by Dr. Smith-Bindman and colleagues of common CT scans performed at several institutions in the San Francisco Bay area. “What they found was interesting and shocking,” Dr. Redberg says, “in that there is a 10- to 30-fold, and sometimes up to 50-fold, variation in the amount of radiation from these same CT scans done at different institutions, and sometimes even at the same institution on different days.

“What that really tells us,” she continues, “is that there’s great potential to reduce the radiation dose in commonly used CT scans just by paying more attention to the radiation dose.”

She suggests that before ordering an imaging test, doctors “consider the risks and benefits of this test, and be convinced that we need this test with radiation in order to get the information necessary for that patient.” When a test is necessary, she says, it should be done in a way that uses the least possible amount of radiation.

“With those fairly simple steps,” she said, “we can make a huge difference in reducing cancer risk from radiation exposure in the United States.”

Related CME seminar (up to 8.5 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): ALARA – CT (As Low As Reasonably Achievable)

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