Tracking Radiology’s Risks

Tracking Radiology’s Risks By: Christina McGarvey

Studies have shown that as many as one-third of CT scans in the United States are unnecessary and that between 1% and 2% of cancer cases may be caused by CT radiation exposure. Radiology Resident Dr. Mark Otto Baerlocher designed an application in May available to iPhone and iTouch users for $2.99 called Radiation Passport. The purpose of Radiation Passport is to educate users about the radiation and cancer risks associated with medical imaging exams and procedures that physicians (and dentists) want you to undergo, to keep track of radiology and imaging-related exams and procedures, and to provide an estimate of risk of developing cancer because of this radiation. If you do not have an iPhone or an iTouch , you can also visit this website it is similar in principle.

97% of 127 patients recently said in a survey that they were not informed of the radiation risks associated with the tests they were scheduled to receive. Calculating the cumulative dose is a difficult task, because studies can become conflicting and have varying radiation doses and effects depending on age and gender, but Dr. Baerlocher thinks that this needs to change given the rapid growth in the use of CT exams. One abdominal CT scan is equal to around five-hundred chest x-rays “If you need the test, it should be done. But in patients who need continual monitoring, should you do repeat CT scans on a regular basis, or because of the high radiation dose, are there better tests to do instead? There may be some disagreements about the best way to approach the issue, but the end result is what’s most important- greater discussion and understanding of the effects of radiation.

I believe that tracking radiology’s risks by using the application is a greater way for patients to be more involved and will make physicians want to learn more about what these procedures involve once patients start asking them more questions which I believe would come up after using the application.  These doctors should know this stuff to begin with and inform the patients before sending them out the door with a prescription for pain meds with side effects attached, that the X-Ray or CT they just sent them for could have risks as well. We as students and workers have to wear film badges to track how much radiation we are around, why not have something available to patients as well?

I can see where this could be a bad thing as well, like making people look at just the risks and not the benefits of these exams. A patient could refuse a scan because they downloaded a program on their iPhone that tells them the risk is high, and they say “forget it” when they’ve made the decision based only on the risks and not the benefits.  I know if I had to go in regularly and get x-rays or scans I would definitely do the research, plus it does help that I have some knowledge already. I can’t say I would have been that adamant about knowing about them before because I didn’t know much about radiation.  When it comes to pregnant woman as far as treating them with care and making sure they don’t receive radiation unless they really have to, the radiology staff takes them and their health very seriously. But on the other hand an adult receiving multiple CT scans might not even know there is a risk involved. It just does not seem to be treated as seriously as someone who is pregnant. I think that even radiology workers could benefit from a refresher once in a while on radiation and how it affects patients and themselves, they tend to over expose when not needed, but if only they were the ones being imaged they might feel different about the excess radiation they are giving to their patients.

iPhone Screenshot 1 iPhone Screenshot 2

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2 Responses to “Tracking Radiology’s Risks”

  1. Elisa says:

    Very interesting Christina…! I’ve been asked loads by patients about the risks…I’ll tell them to try this if they have an iphone. E

  2. XCal says:

    Cool – congrats to the developers!

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