AAPM: Put rad dose risk in perspective

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A discussion of radiation risks from medical imaging procedures should be accompanied by acknowledgement of the benefits of a given imaging procedure, according to the “Message of the Month” for December 2011, posted on the American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) website.

The AAPM said it understands that medical imaging procedures should be appropriate and conducted with the lowest effective radiation dose, but the statement also attempted to put radiation risk in context.

Effective doses below 50 mSv for a single imaging procedure or 100 mSv for multiple procedures over a short time period carry risks that are too low to be detected and may be nonexistent, according to the AAPM. The association argued that hypothetical predictions of cancer incidence in patients exposed to these low doses should be discouraged as they would be highly speculative.

“These predictions are harmful because they lead to sensationalistic articles in the public media that cause some patients and parents to refuse medical imaging procedures, placing them at substantial risk by not receiving the clinical benefits of the prescribed procedures,” wrote the AAPM.

The AAPM, which has a stated goal of improving patient safety for the medical use of radiation in imaging and radiation therapy, also said in the statement that its members continue to strive to lower radiation levels and maximize the benefits of imaging procedures.

Recent articles in Radiology explored the viability of informed consent regarding radiation exposure and reinforced the concept of informed decision making. For a summary of those arguments click here.