California bill to track rad dose clears one hurdle

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The California State Assembly in a bipartisan vote of 70-4 has approved SB 1237, which seeks to establish protocols and safeguards to protect patients from excess radiation exposure during CT scans by requiring radiation dosage levels be recorded on the scanned image and in a patient’s health records and that radiation overdoses be reported to patients, their treating physicians and the California Department of Public Health.

The bill, authored by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, also requires the same kind of monitoring and reporting on therapeutic x-rays used to treat cancer. The legislation was first introduced in May. SB 1237 will next be heard in the Senate for a procedural concurrence vote before going to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk for his signature.

In late 2009, the California Department of Public Health learned that over an 18-month period 260 patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles were exposed to radiation doses eight times greater than allowable during CT brain perfusion scans.

Subsequent reviews of California facilities, including Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata, Glendale Adventist Medical Center in Glendale, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank and Bakersfield Memorial Hospital in Bakersfield, among others, found similar errors were made, according to Padilla, who noted that these “radiation overdoses put patients at a higher risk of developing brain tumors, cataracts, melanomas and other maladies."

“The fact that these overdoses continued for 18 months speaks to the urgent need for protocols and safeguards to prevent overdoses in the future,” said Padilla.  “SB 1237 will provide physicians the information they need to track dosage levels and prevent patients from receiving overdoses of radiation.”

It is estimated that as many as 70 million CT scans are conducted each year throughout the U.S.