Medical Imaging Blog

Legislating Radiation Safety Leads to Improved Radiology Quality Assurance

Radiologist Viewing Medical Image for Radiology Quality Assurance

The Lone Star State now joins California in implementing its own radiation exposure rule, effective May 1, 2013. Establishing acceptable dose thresholds is an important step toward radiology quality assurance and improving patient safety. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the new health code includes guidelines for radiation reporting and training as well. All healthcare providers using fluoroscopy and CT were required to have a radiation program in place by May 1st.

The radiology quality assurance and safety program must:

  • Record patient radiation dose on all CT and fluoroscopy exams
  • Establish and manage radiation dose thresholds on all CT and fluoroscopy procedures
  • Notify patients of dose threshold breeches
  • Provide good radiation safety training to all staff members performing CT and fluoroscopy procedures

Is a National Mandate Far Behind?

Texas DSHS’ rule represents the first mandate requiring both a radiation safety committee and program. Given the number of cases of radiation overexposure (which went undetected for more than 18 months) at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles in 2008, taking a proactive stance on radiology quality assurance makes sense. California’s dose-reporting law went into effect last July. The big questions is, “What took so long?”

After California established a mandate, all 50 states had gained access to the California AB510 radiation mandate and began drafting similar laws.

Radiation safety in healthcare will continue to gain traction as awareness grows. We only understand the effects of large-scale disasters, like Chernobyl; but small doses of radiation over time may prove to be a ticking time bomb for patients who received too much radiation. Twenty years from now, we may look back and wonder why safety training and dose thresholds weren’t always in place.

It’s imperative that healthcare providers in all states create awareness of radiation safety among staff and clinicians. Furthermore, they should construct a robust radiation safety program, whether or not the federal government mandates it.

Do you think radiation quality assurance and safety should be voluntary or mandated by law?

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