By Maggie Mertens
After a week of mounting questions about radiation overdoses at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the CEO of the hospital late yesterday expressed deep regret over problems with CT scans that overdosed more than 200 patients and called the situation "unacceptable."
Over the last year and half, the Los Angeles hospital exposed patients with suspected strokes to about eight times the expected radiation dose during diagnostic CT scans. Only after a patient complained in August about losing hair following a scan did the hospital realize the problem.
Besides apologizing, hospital CEO Thomas Priselac detailed in a statement the steps the hospital would take to avoid future mishaps. At the heart of the radiation problem were changes hospital staff made to override standard settings of the CT machine. Now those sorts of modifications will require more stringent controls.
The hospital also flagged some areas for the Food and Drug Administration and makers of CT scanners should take a look at, including:
- Reviewing how scanner manufacturers make default settings;
- Improving and standardizing the display of radiation dose on the screens used by technologists;
- Requiring scanner operators to confirm a dose before proceeding with a scan; and,
- Protect some settings with a password so that only manufacturers can change them.
The Cedars-Sinai statement didn't apologize for incompletely informing some exposed patients about the circumstances of the radiation hazard. The Los Angeles Times reported that four patients the paper talked with said they were only asked by the hospital about any symptoms they had experienced after the scans.
Dr. Barry Pressman, chairman of the hospital's imaging department, said in a statement sent to NPR that the patients weren't told all the details because "the goal is to address any side-effects that may occur, without unnecessarily alarming them."