Diagnostic imaging is an effective tool that can save lives. However, the higher the dose of ionizing radiation delivered at any one time, the greater the risk that a patient will face long-term damage. In addition, if a patient receives repeated doses, harm can also occur as the cumulative effect of those multiple doses over time. The risks associated with the use of ionizing radiation in diagnostic imaging include cancer, burns and other injuries. X-rays are officially classified as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Recognizing these risks, in August 2011, The Joint Commission issued a Sentinel Event Alert warning of the radiation risks of diagnostic imaging.
By installing new imaging technology that uses lower radiation doses for CT scans, North Shore-LIJ Health System is addressing an important factor that can contribute to excess radiation dosing. Eliminating exposure to avoidable radiation requires a comprehensive patient safety program that includes education for staff and patients about the potential dangers of diagnostic radiation and dosing in imaging departments.
We salute North Shore-LIJ Health System for its attention to these risks. Safely adopting new technology and making sure it operates appropriately and delivers lower doses of radiation are very positive steps toward reducing the radiation risks associated with diagnostic imaging. Another key component of a safe imaging program is the reduction of overuse of diagnostic imaging by limiting the use of all imaging modalities only to appropriate indications.