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Michigan Hospitals Try To Cut Radiation Doses

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Hospitals in Michigan are trying in a variety of ways to reduce radiation exposure for their patients. The Henry Ford Health System, for example, requires approval from a radiologist before CT scans are performed.

Patricia Anstett, medical writer for the Detroit Free Press, reported on the trend in a story published Monday. She also found that:

  • Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn has spent nearly $4 million this year on new, lower-radiation CT machines and upgrades to older machines.
  • Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak added a consumer hotline to answer patient questions about radiation associated with imaging, calibrates doses by size and body mass index of patients, and has a dose-reduction team that meets monthly. Beaumont also spent $2 million on a new flash CT scanner that yields significantly lower radiation exposure than older models. The hospital tries to reserve that machine for women of childbearing years, children, and those who are undergoing repeat scans.
  • A statewide project at 15 Michigan hospitals last year reduced radiation doses in heart and blood-vessel scans without hurting image quality. The program incorporated such measures as limiting the areas of a body exposed to radiation and adjusting doses according to a patient’s weight.
  • Some hospitals are trying to get veteran radiologists to enroll in certification programs so they canĀ  be educated about new radiation-reduction measures. Ella Kazerooni, MD, a professor of radiology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said many older physicians were made exempt from annual certification requirements when new standards were adopted a few years ago.

Dr. Kazerooni cited studies saying that as many as one-third of all medical tests are unnecessary. She blamed the extra testing on doctors’ fears of being sued, pressure from patients to order imaging, and, sometimes, referrals by doctors to imaging centers in which they have a financial interest.

The article mentions that doctors and other health-care providers seem to be ahead of the public on this issue. Jill Sklar of Huntington Woods, Michigan, underwent 10 CT scans within 21 years because of Crohn’s disease. She’s educated enough about medical matters to be a member of a consumer panel for gastroenterological diseases for the Food and Drug Administration. But she said she never gave a thought to radiation exposure until she discovered two years ago that Crohn’s patients, because of frequent scans, receive up to 11 times the radiation exposure that the average healthy person gets.

“I just assumed that what was being done was safe for me,” she said. “That really raised the red flag for me.” She now says she’ll avoid any procedures that use ionizing radiation unless they’re absolutely necessary.

Many consumers “aren’t caught up to ask questions yet,” said Souheil Saba, MD, director of advanced CT imaging at St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield. So, he said, health professionals need to take the lead in asking, “How necessary is this test?”

Related seminar: The Business of Radiology

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