Healthcare providers need to use diagnostic radiation sparingly and cautiously, implored the Joint Commission in Issue 47 of Sentinel Event Alert . It also implied a recommendation for obtaining information about patients' recent radiation from other providers.
Over the past two decades, the U.S. population’s total exposure to ionizing radiation has nearly doubled, the alert pointed out, adding that harm can occur due to the cumulative effect of multiple doses over time.
“While experts disagree on the extent of the risks of cancer from diagnostic imaging, there is agreement that care should be taken to weigh the medical necessity of a given level of radiation exposure against the risks, and that steps should be taken to eliminate avoidable exposure to radiation,” according to the alert, which focuses on diagnostic radiation and does not cover therapeutic radiation or fluoroscopy.
The Joint Commission used the alert to recommend specific practices healthcare providers might employ to reduce patients’ exposure to radiation, such as:
- Use of imaging techniques other than CT, such as ultrasound or MRI and collaboration between radiologists and referring physicians about the appropriate use of diagnostic imaging.
- Assurance by radiologists that the proper dosing protocol is in place for the patient being treated and review of all dosing protocols against the latest evidence either annually or every two years.
- Implementation of centralized quality and safety performance monitoring of all diagnostic imaging equipment that may emit high amounts of radiation cumulatively.
“Diagnostic imaging is a necessary medical tool, but it must be used with great care,” Mark R. Chassin, MD, president of the Joint Commission, said in a statement. “Although there is still debate about how much is too much radiation, and the timeframe within which radiation can be safely administered, the recommendations in this Alert give healthcare organizations practical strategies to make sure that patients get the right diagnostic imaging tests with the lowest dose of radiation needed to make a diagnosis.”
The Joint Commission publishes Sentinel Event Alert as a free service to its accredited organizations. The alert on the radiation risks of diagnostic imaging, the 47th such document in the series, is available for download here.