Medical scan makers to install radiation controls

February 25, 2010 11:13:59 AM PST
A medical imaging trade group said Thursday that manufacturers of CT scanners will begin installing safety controls to prevent patients from receiving excessive radiation. The dosing checks, which will begin rolling out before the end of the year, will alert machine operators whenever the machine's settings exceed recommended levels. Hospitals and clinics will also be able to set maximum dosing levels for their machines.

The announcement from the Medical Imaging & Technology Alliance comes two weeks after the Food and Drug Administration said it would begin cracking down on excessive radiation scanning.

The changes will be implemented by the five makers of CT scanners: General Electric Co., Siemens AG, Toshiba Corp., Philips and Hitachi.

The group's director said manufacturers had been working on the changes for months, though their unveiling comes one day before a congressional hearing on the safety of imaging scanners.

Last year three California hospitals reported hundreds of acute radiation overdoses from CT scanners, with many patients reporting lost hair and skin redness.

The average American's total radiation exposure has nearly doubled in the last three decades, largely due to next-generation imaging tests, according to the FDA.

When the agency announced its initiative it also targeted other types of scanners, including nuclear imaging machines. The trade group said it is still working to implement changes with manufacturers of those machines.

The safety changes outlined by industry Thursday will be made to older machines via software changes, though the effort will take time.

"It's important to understand that this is a rolling initiative," said MITA Executive Director Dave Fisher "It won't happen overnight."

CT scans became popular because they offer a quick, relatively cheap way to get three-dimensional pictures that give an almost surgical view of the body. Doctors use them to evaluate trauma, belly pain, seizures, chronic headaches and other ailments.

However, they also carry a higher risk than older scans. One CT chest scan carries as much radiation as nearly 400 chest X-rays, according to the FDA.


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