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Radiation Safety

At DHMC, as elsewhere in the medical and scientific community, we constantly seek improved understanding of the risks and the benefits of all aspects of medical imaging, and in particular, of the risks posed by ionizing radiation. In light of the recent publicity surrounding the possible contribution of CT scans to overall cancer risk, the Department of Radiology wants to emphasize the role that careful risk assessment and dosage minimization plays in our practice. Patient safety is our highest priority, and prominent among these protections are the measures we take to provide effective dosage monitoring and radiation reduction in CT exams. We encourage you to speak with your physician or with a radiologist about any safety concerns you may have about a proposed or scheduled radiology exam. Consultations on safety issues with radiologic technologists or with the department's diagnostic physicist may also be arranged.

All forms of ionizing radiation, whether naturally-occurring (e.g., radon or cosmic rays) or as part of a medical exam, carry some degree of potential health risk.  While these risks must acknowledged, they must also be seen in perspective—and in general, and when performed appropriately, the medical value of X-ray and CT exams far outweighs the known risk. Examples of radiation exposure reduction practices used at DHMC include but are not limited to: breast shields for all female and pediatric patients, dose modulation (reduction) per image acquired, dose protocol by a Radiologist, tailored to each patient, and independent dose protocol review biannually with an independent source. Our current pediatric dose protocols are based on age and weight and reflect lower exposure than recommended by the American College of Radiology.

Additional information about the radiation risk of X-ray and CT imaging may be found at the following websites:

  • "RadiologyInfo" is a joint education resource maintained by the two largest American radiology associations, the RSNA and the ACR.  Its page on radiation safety is a good starting point.
  • Image Gently is a site dedicated to issues in children's imaging, maintained by the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging.
  • The ACR's page on Radiology Safety Resources is a more comprehensive catalog on the subject, including both patient-oriented educational sites, as well as white-papers and guidelines for the medical community. 
  • Specifically addressing some of the recent controversy concerning radiation risk in CT is this ACR Response to NEJM on Radiation Safety.
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