JAMA: ASTRO, FDA launch radiation safety initiatives

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The American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) and the FDA have launched radiation safety initiatives to enhance the safety of medical radiation and to reduce unnecessary exposure in patients, according to an article published in the April 7 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association.

ASTRO said that radiation has been and will continue to be an essential part of cancer therapy and the organization is committed to a patient protection plan that will improve safety and quality and reduce the chances of medical errors. Meanwhile, the FDA will launch an initiative to promote the safe use of imaging devices for medical use, to support informed clinical decision making, and to increase patients' awareness of their own exposure.

ASTRO will work with others on the following six steps:

  • Creating a central database for the reporting of errors involving linear accelerators and CT scanners.
  • Launching an enhanced practice accreditation program to address new, advanced technologies.
  • Expanding educational training programs to include specific courses on quality assurance and safety. 
  • Working with patient support organizations to develop tools for cancer patients and caregivers. 
  • Improving the way computer systems in radiation oncology share information through coordinated use of established standards. 
  • Advocating for new and expanded federal initiatives to help protect patients, including support for passage of the Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility, and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy (CARE) Act.

The FDA's safety plan aims to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure from three types of medical imaging procedures: CT, nuclear medicine studies and fluoroscopy. These procedures are the greatest contributors to individuals' total radiation exposure and use much higher radiation doses than other radiographic procedures such as x-rays and mammography, according to FDA.

The agency also is collaborating with other organizations to develop a patient medical imaging history card that will allow patients to track their own medical imaging history and share the cumulative history of radiation that patients have already received with their physicians.

The FDA also plans to issue requirements for manufacturers regarding necessary safeguards when designing their machines and when training practitioners in their use. In addition, the FDA is working to incorporate quality assurance practices into the mandatory accreditation of imaging facilities and hospitals.