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Heart Institute Proudly Cuts Radiation Exposure

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Anything you can image, we can image with less radiation. That’s more or less the boast of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

At the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, which concluded Wednesday in Toronto, the UOHI showcased—or, frankly, bragged about—what a UOHI news release called “striking results in radiation reduction for the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease.”

The UOHI has a lot to brag about. A multipronged initiative has, for two thirds of its imaging patients, reduced radiation doses by half. The institute has slashed radiation exposure across all types of radiation-based cardiac imaging—nuclear, CT, and PET.

The news release notes that the American Society of Nuclear Cardiology prodded physicians and clinics to reduce the total radiation exposure of patients referred for SPECT or PET myocardial perfusion imaging. The challenge came in an article published online in May 2010 by the Journal of Nuclear Cardiology. The target: no more than 9 millisieverts of exposure for 50 percent of such patients by 2014.

“The techniques being employed at the Heart Institute regularly reduce exposure to 5 mSv, and often much less, putting UOHI well ahead of the game,” the news release boasts. “This figure has not bottomed out as efforts will continue to minimize radiation wherever possible.”

How has UOHI done it? According to Benjamin Chow, MD, UOHI’s co-director of cardiac radiology:

Our clinicians are taking a much more critical look at who they are testing with radioactive methods and making decisions based upon risk and necessity which will only expose patients to radiation who truly need the test. These responsible practices, along with a judicious use of technology, could revolutionize cardiac imaging in Canada.

Did I mention that the institute seems kind of proud of its achievements?

Anyway, on the technology front, the institute adopted a cadmium zinc telluride camera system that cut radiation doses from perfusion SPECT scans. And improvements in software allowed reduced usage of radioactive isotopes at no loss of image quality.

So the UOHI has reason to be self-congratulatory. As the U.S. cowboy poet Will Rogers may or may not have been the first to say, if you can do it, it ain’t bragging.

Related seminar: Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Imaging

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