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CT Brain Scan Radiation Exposure May Be Due to Human Errors

Posted on January 18, 2011

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to monitor how hundreds of patients were exposed to excessive radiation from computer tomograhic imaging (CT) brain perfusion scans. So far, the agency has adverse reports from 385 patients who received an excess dose at 6 hospitals, enough so that they lost their hair and developed red skin. More than 200 of those patients were exposed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles in 2009, while the remainder received the excessive radiation at hospitals in California and Alabama. An FDA inspection of the CT scanners made by GE Healthcare and Toshiba America Medical Systems, found that when used according to manufacturers’ instructions, overexposure did not result. The long-term overexposure to radiation increases the risks of cancer.

The FDA has issued an expansion of its December 2009 recommendation:

  • Make sure the technologist is properly trained on the specific scanner.
  • The technologist should understand the dose index that appears on the CT control screen as well as the range or each body scan region.
  • The CT operator should be familiar with adjusting the parameters of the machine and the automatic exposure control.
  • The FDA recommends each facility set an alert level for CT brain scan studies.

A study in The Annals of Emergency Medicine found that three-quarters of patients about to undergo a CT scan did not understand the increased risk of cancer, in fact, only 3 percent of those surveyed understood that their lifetime risk of cancer is increased.

The Florida personal injury attorneys at Farah & Farah remind you that the FDA is continuing to monitor radiation overexposure from CT scans that are performed incorrectly, even if all errors are attributed to human error and not a defective CT scanner.