New rules set limits on radiation in CT Scans

News rules will limit how much radiation is allowed for CT Scans statewide and impose training standards on medical staff performing the procedure.

Starting in January, the Washington state Department of Health will enforce new regulations related to CT Scans.

The rules will set dose limits for radiation and establish training education requirements for the medical staff performing the procedure.

The move makes Washington the latest in a growing list of states responding to concerns about over-exposure to radiation which can cause side effects such as hair loss and an increased risk for cancer.

"These regulations are really going to make the environment safer for the patient by doing two primary things. First of all, they pretty much ensure people operating the scanners know how to operate them safely, but secondly, they institute regular monitoring of what's happening," said Dr. William Shuman, chairman of UW Medicine Department of Radiology.

"With these regulations, I think everybody is going to be thinking about it more, and that is a good thing," Shuman said.

Concerns about radiation in part led Washington state to create standards and a system of inspections for X-Rays at medical facilities, but it's only now that the Department of Health is implementing similar measures for CT Scans specifically.

Doctors have increasingly begun relying on CT Scans for quick and definitive answers.

The powerful machines take hundreds of x-rays and create three-dimensional images which help doctors spot abnormalities, such as a tumor, without surgery.

In 2009, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Calif. made headlines for over exposing more than 200 CT Scan patients to radiation.

California and several other states responded to the incident by passing radiation dose restrictions.

Washington did not initially take similar action.

"Convincing people that this was the way to go, it took a lot longer than I anticipated," said Dr. Kalpana Kanal, director of the diagnostic physics section at UW Medicine.

Both Kanal and Shuman served on a state advisory committee and helped draft the new regulations now taking effect in January.

Kanal called the new measures important. She said her research indicated a noticeable variation in the dosage being used for CT Scans statewide.

"I might be giving an optimal dose, but one of the other hospitals might be giving more," Kanal said.

In 2017, state regulators will begin inspecting medical facilities to ensure compliance with the new radiation limits.

You can read the new rule by clicking here.

Copyright 2016 KING


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