You’ve heard those outlandish horror stories about being exposed to too much radiation and growing a second head or turning green. While you shouldn’t expect that to happen to you after a few MRIs, radiation can cause some equally frightening and real problems.
Imaging tests like x-rays, CT scans, and nuclear medicine tests, use low levels of radiation to produce accurate images of the body. On average, the amount of radiation has been greatly reduced over the last 20 years due to improvements in technology. However, many individuals still fear the dangers of imaging exams, which in extreme cases can include certain types of cancers. Children are considered more at risk than adults since exposure levels are higher.
Determining cancer risk from medical radiation exposure isn’t quite as easy as it might sound. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that exposure to 10 mSv from an imaging test would be expected to increase the risk of death from cancer by about 1 chance in 2000. However, it can be unclear if the cancer was a direct result from these exams or from another source. Oftentimes, many individuals have difficulty remembering the number of childhood x-rays and exams, leading to skewed data.
Although these risks are present, medical imaging has been strongly linked to a greater life expectancy, reduced cancer risk, and overall improved quality of life. Preventing redundant radiology limits radiation exposure, allowing providers to only use these tests to produce the best outcome for the patient.
The FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDHR) launched an Initiative to Reduce Unnecessary Radiation Exposure from Medical Imaging in 2010. Keeping the core philosophy that imaging exams must do more good then harm in mind, the CHDR developed several key initiatives. Among these was a movement to establish stronger requirements for manufacturers and incorporate key quality assurance practices into both hospitals and imaging facilities. It was also recommended that the healthcare professional community develop stronger criteria. Finally, the FDA also suggested that patients should be given a greater opportunity to track their own medical imaging history. This is where patient portals and medical imaging connect.
Patient portals that incorporate medical imaging provide patients with the opportunity to keep track of their own exams and send them over to physicians. Patients have far more control over their own medical records and avoiding duplicate procedures. Physicians can also share these images with other providers for second opinions.
Do you think patient portals can act as a key method in the prevention of redundant radiology exams?