FDA Concerned About Exposure to Medical Radiation

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By Elise Craig on June 14, 2010

The Food and Drug Administration is considering new protocol to make sure that patients and their doctors know how much radiation they get exposed to in common medical tests like CT scans, the Associated Press reports.

People in the United States  are exposed to more medical radiation than in any other country, and the average American’s dose has grown sixfold over the past twenty years or so.

A single scan does not expose a patient to a lot of radiation, but it accumulates in the body over time and can increase the risk of cancer. Currently, doctors aren’t required to keep track of how many scans a patient has had, and only mammograms come with federal rules for doses
of radiation.

The FDA may also ask doctors to start keeping a running tally of howmany tests a patient has been given over a lifetime, as well as to help set standards for doses of radiation.

Sean Boyd, chief of the FDA’s diagnostic devices branch, told the AP that the agency is “considering requirements and guidelines for record-keeping of dose and other technical parameters of the imaging exam.”

Doctors don’t really know how much radiation poses a threat, and their best guesses come from survivors of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident and the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan.

Exposure to radiation is measured in millisieverts, and the survivors of those incidents were exposed to 50 to 150 millisieverts. A regular chest X-ray measures 0.01 to .1 millisieverts, a mammogram less than one, and natural radiation from the sun is about two per year. A CT
scan of the chest measures between 10 and 20.

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