FDA Suggests Operator Changes for Scanners Used In Radiation Overdoses

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In 2009, a number of people reported mysterious ring-pattern hair loss on their heads. Although these cases baffled doctors at first, investigators soon discovered the culprit: overdoses of radiation that patients had received during CT scans of their brains. In all, nearly 400 people are confirmed to have been affected. The scans, called brain perfusion scans, were often administered to help determine whether the patient had suffered a stroke. Beyond the telltale hair loss, the overdoses may turn out to be very serious, putting the patients at greatly increased risk of cancer and brain damage.

Since late 2009, the FDA has been studying patient radiation exposure from CT scans. Incidences of radiation overdoses date as far back as 2008, and the FDA reports that the problem continued until at least October of 2010.

FDA Makes Recommendations to Manufacturers

In November of last year, the FDA published a letter to the Medical Imaging and Technology Alliance, an industry group that represents the manufacturers of the devices. In the letter, the FDA says that the scanners did not malfunction, but rather the settings allowed the operator to deliver too much radiation without alerting the operator.

The FDA has proposed changes to the software and operators manuals, as well as training, to ensure that the technicians operating the machines are better aware of the radiation dosages they are using and the radiation dosages needed for proper imaging. The FDA has not, however, suggested that limits be placed on the amount of radiation the machines can generate.

Reports from 2010 indicate that many of the overdoses occurred at the prestigious Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, and others occurred at a hospital in Alabama. But because there is no national standard for how much radiation is too much, it is unknown whether similar overdoses occurred elsewhere, as well.

An Attorney Can Help

Those who have received CT brain perfusion scans should be on the lookout for loss of hair in a ring around their heads (roughly where a hat would sit) and should contact a doctor if they feel they may have received a radiation overdose. Anyone affected should also talk to an experienced medical malpractice attorney to ensure their legal rights are protected.

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