Furr & Henshaw
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Training of Radiologists and Other Technological Medical Staff Should be Improved

It shouldn't take news of the fall-out from the Japanese nuclear meltdown to remind health care providers that radiation levels must be monitored closely. This is especially true when children are involved. Children's cells divide more quickly than adults, making kids more vulnerable to the effects of radiation.

Newborn babies are the most vulnerable of all, and that is why full-body X-rays are normally not done on them. The New York Times recently reported, however, about medical malpractice problems at a hospital in New York, where full-body X-rays were given to numerous premature babies in 2007.

The hospital was State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn. When a new pediatric radiologist began work there, it was also discovered that radiation levels on CT scanners had been set too high for infants. Another issue of concern was that babies were not positioned properly to make interpretation of the images accessible to doctors.

Errors can also occur in South Carolina, if the radiology equipment technicians are not sufficiently trained and supervised. Modern medical technology is increasingly complex, and technicians in many states are often not well regulated.

The main professional organization for radiology technicians is aware of the issue. The American Society of Radiologic Technologists has tried for years to get Congress to pass a bill that would set minimum education and training standards. The standards would apply not only to radiologists, but to other related occupations, including medical imaging and radiation therapy.

Source: "X-Rays and Unshielded Infants," New York Times, 2-27-11

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