Freedom from radiation fears

Tuesday August 7, 2012

As the last waves of summer tourists prepare to file past Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms," may I submit this offering to be filed under Freedom from Fear, encouraging your readers to share it with anyone they know who has experienced the fear of excess radiation from medical imaging.

Just a year ago I had two CT scans of my brain for acute vertigo. A plain CT scan done through the emergency room of a community hospital was negative for a stroke or bleed, but I would sooner than later need a more aggressive follow-up study at a nearby regional hospital. Being a CT technologist myself, I knew what that meant -- more dosage. But all parties involved agreed, based on what we were now justified in looking for, that the return in information well warranted the order.

After the second exam likewise proved negative, I was diagnosed with a nagging but manageable illness called labyrinthitis. The right treatment was started sooner because my doctor now had the confidence that it wouldn't exaggerate a problem that might not have been detected without what too many misinformed consumers would call the "excess radiation" study -- indeed, I received 2. 3 times the radiation dose at the regional hospital. Yet after "all that radiation" I still have a brain I would stand any time against those of fearmongers and the innocent victims of them.

This is not to say that all fears are unjustified. Many stories in the media about poor dose control are founded in calibration, default techniques, staff training, and of course human errors including my own (where applicable) that may occur at any point between the order and the reading.

After lead shielding, the greatest weapon against careless irradiation is transparency. I was fortunate enough to be taken care of by individuals who understand and value the return on this most important of all imaging parameters. For those less fortunate, if the imaging facility where you felt poorly served does not have a standing and approachable Radiation Safety Committee, your state Department of Health can provide one.


Great Barrington


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