FDA investigates radiation overdose at hospitals December 17, 2009 8:43 AM   Subscribe

This NPR story from the 15th about radiation overdoses at three hospitals from CT scans reminded me of this post on the blue awhile back, which is now closed. I still think of this from time to time, so I thought some of you might be interested.

"It could be due to human error," he says. "Or it could be due to problems in the design of the CT scanners, or it could be a combination of both."
posted by fiercecupcake to MetaFilter-Related at 8:43 AM (6 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I do find these sorts of things interesting, though very sad when people are hurt or killed. It's the same with aviation accidents and all kinds of other similar investigations, where it's fascinating and sometimes actually personally useful to learn about what went wrong.

Hopefully, some good can come out of the investigation in the form of lessons learned about how to reduce human error or design error (whatever it turns out to be). And hopefully it's not a case of lessons that should have been learned and applied last time something like this happened, but weren't.
posted by FishBike at 9:31 AM on December 17, 2009

I caught the tail end of this story driving the other day. This figure shocked me:

"1 in every 250 patients who undergo CT scans of the abdomen or pelvis will likely get cancer as a result of the radiation from the scan."

Study here
posted by fontophilic at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

My great-grandmother had 14 cancer operations in her lifetime, but lived till her late eighties. Apparently she had a breast tumor treated with radiation in the 1950's. A friend of the family who was a doctor advised Grandma to request that her arm be secured above her head during the procedure -- if the arm was left at her side, it might receive a dangerous dose of radiation, and he'd noted that many women had actually lost their arms because of their breast cancer treatments. So she had her doctor tie her arm back, and ultimately managed to escape with both her arm and her life.

We have come so far. We will go farther.
posted by hermitosis at 11:47 AM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks for this, fiercecupcake. I, too, have long had a little bit of a weird interest in human radiation disasters so the NPR update was interesting to read. I hope that, as the article notes, the radiation dosages given to patients can be standardized (it's not even standardized!) and lowered.
posted by librarylis at 12:31 PM on December 17, 2009

Great. At this rate, with the number of CT and Xrays of my hips I get, I'm pretty much screwed.
posted by strixus at 12:57 PM on December 17, 2009

As someone who has had a CT scan in the last 40 days, this NPR story was exactly what I didn't want to hear, but it was my drive home yesterday. I was kind of freaked out when they said a normal CT scan gives the equivalent radiation of 200 chest X-rays (if I caught it correctly), and this is an "all at once" dose.


Still, I am grateful we have such things, am glad they are getting better, feel bad for when things go wrong, and wish we'd just come up with the clones for organ harvesting already!

Hhhhmmmm, I wonder how hard a neck transplant would be.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:05 PM on December 17, 2009

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