Only after a patient complained in August about losing some hair following a CT scan did Cedars-Sinai Medical Center realize more than 200 people had been exposed to excessive radiation from diagnostic tests performed there in the last year and a half.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where more than 200 patients were exposed patients to excess radiation during CT scans.
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where more than 200 patients were exposed patients to excess radiation during CT scans. Ric Francis/AP
We first heard about the problem, involving doses as much as eight times normal, when the Food and Drug Administration issued a cryptic warning to hospitals last week, urging them to be on guard for excessive radiation doses from CT scans for stroke.
But the advisory didn't name the hospital or maker of the scanner involved. General Electric made the scanner, we later learned.
Now we know those details, but we still don't have a definitive answer on how a scanner being used to diagnose strokes delivered enough radiation to redden skin and cause hair loss in some patients. The FDA told us today that it's continuing to investigate both user errors and the scanner itself.
So far it looks as if the CT scanner operators at Cedars-Sinai failed to heed notices of jacked-up radiation doses after technicians reprogrammed the machine and overrode standard settings, the Los Angeles Times reported. The overdoses carried a 1-in-600 lifetime risk for causing a brain tumor, according to an outside doctor's calculation cited by the paper.
For its part, Cedars-Sinai says it has put in place double-checks to make sure the problem doesn't happen again. And the hospital continues to probe how the situation persisted for 18 months unnoticed.
GE has stated the excess radiation wasn't its fault. "There were no malfunctions or defects in any of the GE Healthcare equipment involved in the incident," they told us in a statement.
Back in August we reported how more and more people are being exposed to high doses of radiation through common medical tests, even when performed properly. If you're concerned about radiation from scans, talk over the risks and benefits of the tests with your doctor.