Mind the dose. iStockphoto.com
With evidence mounting that radiation exposure from medical scans is a growing public health issue, the Food and Drug Administration is taking action.
The agency says it's got a "three-pronged approach" to reducing unnecessary exposure to X-rays during exams, such as CT scans and angiograms:
- Encourage safe use of medical imaging devices, including stronger safeguards against dangerous doses;
- Help doctors make better decisions by making patient doses easier to see and record in medical files;
- Empower patients with better information and tools to track their doses, such as a personal dose card.
FDA's goal "is to support the benefits associated with medical imaging while minimizing the risks," said a statement quoting Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the agency's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.
Exposure to radiation raises a person's risk of cancer. Over the last 20 years, Americans' radiation doses have almost doubled, mostly due to increases in the use of CT scans, heart stress tests and angiograms.
Reports of equipment-related overdoses in recent months have heightened worries.
You can't have a CT scan with X-rays, but it's possible to make sure the dose is the lowest possible needed for a successful exam. It's also possible to forgo a test or pick an alternative that doesn't involve X-rays, such as ultrasound or MRI.
Last week, the National Institutes of Health said it would take steps to standardize recordkeeping of radiation doses at its own hospital, a move that could set a standard for others to follow.
For more on the FDA's ideas, see this agency white paper.