At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, 206 patients were given CT scans that delivered a dose of radiation many times higher than they were supposed to. The excess radiation was due to an error made by the hospital.
Officials from the hospital said yesterday that the error was a result of overriding the pre-programmed defaults in the scanner which resulted in higher amounts of radiation than expected.
Eight times higher.
The overdoses of radiation were high enough that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an alert last week warning all hospitals to check the settings on their CT scanners.
The error in programming the scanner happened in February 2008, and went unnoticed until August of 2009. For 18 months, all patients who received the procedure known as a CT brain perfusion scan received the excess radiation. Doctors were only made aware of the error when one patient contacted them to report that he began losing his hair after having the scan.
Patients who received the excess radiation have been contacted by the hospital. Around 40% of them have reported hair loss, and many also experienced reddening of the skin. The real danger, of course, is that the excess radiation raises the risk of cancer for these patients.
The higher the levels of radiation used in a scan, the clearer the image–so if doctors are looking for the bigger picture, and not details, often less radiation is sufficient. Altering the levels of radiation to get a clearer image must be weighed against the serious risks of radiation overdoses. Even though lowering the radiation levels is fairly common, General Electric, the maker of the scanner, warns that any new scanning protocol should be carefully assessed “against the validated protocols that are provided on the scanners during installation.”
The Los Angeles Times article quotes Dr. Thomas Dehp, a radiologist and chief medical officer for National Imaging Associates Inc., “You have to be pretty confident to think you know more than the guys who designed the equipment.”
GJEL is currently investigating possible health-related lawsuits against Cedars-Sinai Hospital. If you or a family member has been given a radiation overdose by Cedars-Sinai, please email us at [email protected] or call 1-855-508-9565 for a free consultation about your case.