Schwarzenegger signs CT radiation tracking bill into law

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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed SB 1237 into law, establishing protocols and safeguards to protect patients from being exposed to excess radiation during CT scans.

The bill, which was authored by Senator Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, and passed the California State Assembly in August, comes in response to reports that over an 18-month period 269 patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles were exposed to radiation doses eight times greater than prescribed.

According to Padilla, had the healthcare providers treating the “first overexposed patient been aware of his radiation doses when reviewing the CT images or the patient’s records, the hospital would likely have discovered the overdoses and not inadvertently overexposed an additional 268 patients.”

The bill requires:

  • Radiation dosage levels be recorded on the scanned image and in a patient’s health records; and
  • Radiation overdoses be reported to the patient, the treating physician and the California Department of Public Health.

The bill also requires the same level of monitoring and reporting on therapeutic x-rays, the accreditation of all facilities that conduct CT scans to federal standards and an annual verification for the calibration of the CT scan equipment.

“There is an urgent need for protocols and safeguards to prevent radiation overdoses,” said Padilla. “This bill will provide physicians the information they need to track dosage levels, identify errors and prevent patients from receiving overdoses of radiation.”

The number of CT scans performed in the U.S. each year has grown from three million in 1980, to 70 million currently.