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New CA Law Requires CT Radiation Tracking

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Trends often start in California, so a new law requiring the tracking of CT radiation doses may be just the first of many.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed SB 1237 into law last week. The California Assembly approved the bill 70-4, and the Senate vote was 22-10.

The law requires that radiation dosage levels from CT scans and therapeutic X-rays used to treat cancer be recorded on the scanned image and in a patient’s health records. Radiation overdoses must be reported to the patient, the treating physician, and the California Department of Health. All facilities that conduct CT scans must be accredited to federal standards, and the calibration of CT scanners must be verified annually.

The bill came in response to reports that 269 CT patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles were exposed to radiation doses eight times greater than intended. Similar overdoses have been reported in at least five other California hospitals plus a Florida hospital and an Alabama hospital. (See our earlier report here.)

California Senator Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, wrote the bill. HealthImaging.com quoted him as saying that had the healthcare providers treating the “first overexposed patient been aware of his radiation doses when reviewing the CT images or the patient’s records, the hospital would likely have discovered the overdoses and not inadvertently overexposed an additional 268 patients.”

All of the overdoses at all of the hospitals involved perfusion scans used to diagnose possible strokes. Patients reported such bizarre symptoms as losing hair in a band around the head. Nobody knows what the long-term consequences for their health might be.

Said Senator Padilla:

There is an urgent need for protocols and safeguards to prevent radiation overdoses. This bill will provide physicians the information they need to track dosage levels, identify errors, and prevent patients from receiving overdoses of radiation.

With all due respect to the senator, no, it won’t. The law requires tracking of only certain kinds of radiation-producing procedures, and only in California. Expect further legislation in California and other states and, eventually, federal regulation.

Related seminar: National Diagnostic Imaging Symposiumâ„¢

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