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Less is more: Lowering radiation doses for diagnosis

Imaging technologies such as CT scans and X-rays are essential tools for diagnosing everything from arthritis and lung infections to vascular diseases, some cancers and accidental injuries. Throughout Hallmark Health System, more than 25,000 CT scans are performed and nearly 65,000 X-rays are taken each year.AprilSCpic4

To minimize patients’ exposure to radiation, Hallmark Health has installed radiation reduction software, called ASiR, on its CT scanners. The software adjusts the dose based on data points such as the patient’s weight. “These changes have allowed us to reduce the radiation dose to patients on all CT scans performed while still producing high-quality images,” said John Seccareccio, RT, project director of imaging services. Hallmark Health also has upgraded all X-ray systems to digital radiography. “This has resulted in an approximate 40 percent reduction in radiation dosage to the patient,” he added.

Getting an occasional CT scan or X-ray is not cause for concern in general. “The amount of radiation in a chest X-ray, for example, is about the same amount that one would be exposed to while flying cross country,” said Seccareccio.

Lifetime radiation doses are becoming an increasing concern, however; the federal Food and Drug Administration promotes tracking of radiation safety metrics (such as dose data and adverse events) through the development of national registries and databases. The ultimate goal would be to include cumulative exposure information into patients’ medical records.

“Reducing the dose of radiation each patient receives is an important part of patient safety,” said Seccareccio. “We’re doing everything we can to prevent overexposure and minimize the amount of radiation used in every exam.”

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