There's no getting around it; radiation is scary. And although it remains an important part of current medical technology that can be crucial in helping to properly identify serious health conditions, if misapplied, it can cause life-threatening issues.
Radiation overdose is one of those problems that patients never think will apply to them. Why? Because they naturally assume their highly-trained doctors and the advanced technology as well as the legal concerns of the hospital facilities they use, will assure that radiation is safely and properly applied.
Unfortunately for many patients, it simply isn't always the case. Patients are receiving an overdose of radiation in some instances through at least one type of CT scan called a CT brain perfusion scan, according to the New York Times. For 10 months the FDA has been investigating why it is happening, but have yet to publish a report.
Why are hospitals in at least some instances failing to safely administer radiation? The answers are disappointing: the technicians are improperly trained, and the equipment manufacturers may be producing poorly designed equipment, software, and trainers. In other words, there is no good reason. When people's lives are at stake, health equipment manufacturers must be held to a high standard, and hospital administrators must prioritize adequate training.
The symptoms of the radiation overdose are in some cases surprising and obvious: a ring of hair falls out horizontally around the head. If it was only hair loss, it wouldn't be that important. The bigger risks are long-term: there's a chance that patients who have received too much radiation can have memory loss, headaches, or even get cancer or brain damage. According to a lawyer for a patient suing a hospital (reported at NPR), “That amount of radiation produces tissue destruction.”
The investigation into how many hospitals are overdosing their patients is ongoing, and the expectation is that more will surface. Approximately 300 patients are currently known to have received too much radiation through the CT brain perfusion scan. So far, the overdoses have only been shown to happen with this particular type of scan. More information may be forthcoming when the FDA finishes and releases their report.
How do you make sure you don't receive too much radiation in a CT brain perfusion scan? When health institutions and providers fail to protect us from their own attempts to provide medical care that is assumed to be designed to make us better, then it's up to us to take charge! The best answer for now may be to do your research, ask questions and make sure you get complete answers, and speak up about your concerns. In cases like this, you are the first line of defense. Have you ever had concerns about radiation?
: Even with regular X-Rays, it may be important not to have too many in a short period of time. The risk may be small, but before you have X-Rays, you may wish to alert your health care providers about any recent radiation you may have received from other health care providers, such as a dentist.
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