What’s the role for radiologists in dose discussions?

There’s been a growing awareness among the public about radiation doses in medical imaging. However, while general concern might be growing, true understanding is lacking. How should radiology respond?

One of the top-read stories from Health Imaging recently was a review published in the American Journal of Roentgenology that looked at literature on radiation dose and how risks are communicated to patients.

Authored by Diana Lam, MD, of the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues, the review found the following gaps still exist:

  • Limited awareness of radiation-induced cancer risks among both patients and physicians;
  • Variable inclusion of radiation dose and risks in discussions before CT exams;
  • No consensus across the medical community on whose duty it should be to provide patients with risk-and-benefit information; and
  • No consensus on what information, exactly and if any, should be communicated.

Lam and colleagues suggested that referring physicians might be best able to present this information directly to patients, but said there is still a role for radiologists, who “should remain readily available to help both referring physicians and patients understand the complex nature of potential stochastic radiation risks because they purportedly hold the most expertise regarding ionizing radiation.”

There’s also a chance for radiologists to address the fourth gap mentioned above by helping efforts to build consensus on what information should be communicated to non-radiologists, even if they aren’t the ones making direct contact with patients.

Other studies have shown that radiologists can make an impact when they devote time to educating others. Free public lectures provided by radiologists have been shown to increase understanding about mammography screening and decrease patient anxiety. Not to mention, in a world where everyone must constantly demonstrate their value to the healthcare system, emphasizing expertise with all things related to medical radiation would seem to be a prudent strategy for radiologists.

How should dose be discussed with patients? What is the role of the radiologists in this conversation? Follow us on Twitter and let us know what you think!

-Evan Godt
Editorial Director