TJC Calls for Restraint in Diagnostic Radiation

Cheryl Clark, August 25, 2011

Healthcare organizations must be more judicious in the use of CT imaging and other technologies that use harmful radiation for diagnoses, the Joint Commission said in a sentinel alert Wednesday.

"Diagnostic imaging is a necessary medical tool, but it must be used with great care," Commission president Mark R. Chassin, M.D., said in a statement.

"Although there is still debate about how much is too much radiation, and the timeframe within which radiation can be safely administered, the recommendations in this alert give health care organizations practical strategies to make sure that patients get the right diagnostic imaging tests with the lowest dose of radiation needed to make a diagnosis," Chassin said.

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Instead, the commission suggests that providers consider other diagnostic tests that don't use radiation, such as ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging.

Hospitals, imaging centers such as mammography screening practices, dental practices and physician offices may all expose patients to layers of radiation, the annual amounts of which have doubled over the last two decades.

But when providers order such tests, they do so usually without asking or being aware of how many other imaging tests involving radiation the patient has recently been exposed to. "Any physician can order radiologic tests at any frequency with no knowledge of when the patient was last irradiated or how much radiation the patient received," the alert said.


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