Radiation Dose Symposium at UCSF to Highlight Patient Safety

By Jason Bardi

patient in the mri machine

Ensuring that diagnostic imaging is safe means protecting patients from excessive exposure to X-rays – an important objective of radiologists who use radiation daily as part of most imaging examinations they provide.

However, professionals across the medical center enterprise all have a shared responsibility to ensure patients receive appropriate and safe imaging, from the technicians who perform the tests, to the physicists who ensure the technical calibration of the machines, to the doctors who order the tests, to the administrators who set sensible policies to protect patients.

In May, a first-of-its-kind interactive and virtual symposium will be based at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus, pulling together professionals at every level of hospital care.

The broad-based meeting is the brainchild of a group of doctors and other experts from major medical centers across the UC system, including UC Davis, UCLA, UC Irvine and UC San Diego.

UCSF is a leading institution in terms of limiting and optimizing radiation dose wherever possible, and data compiled over the last month shows that doses have declined 40 percent in the last two years – something that is both astounding and fantastic, said UCSF radiology professor Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD.

Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD

Rebecca Smith-Bindman, MD

The symposium’s aim is to get all the radiologists, medical physicists, technologists, nurses and administrators on the same page and understand what concrete steps they can take to improve the safety of imaging where they work so that every CT scans is performed in the safest possible way.

Radiation Safety in Computed Tomography - a virtual symposium may 8-10 2013

Sixty-eight speakers will deliver over 100 lectures at the meeting, covering everything from how to set the scans up so they provide diagnostic information with the lowest possible doses to hearing experiences at many institutions regarding their successes and failures in setting up systematic approaches to standardize practice.

The meeting is also targeted to physicians who refer patients for assessment, to help them understand the risks, benefits and tradeoffs of imaging and what decision support tools are available to them to really improve when and how they use imaging.

Local, national and international leaders will share their experience that will contribute to the safer use of imaging. This includes a U.S. Rep. William Cassidy; Carolyn Clancy, the head the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); chairs of academic departments at top universities; and Walt Bogdanich, a New York Times reporter.

“A really exciting part of the meeting is that individuals can upload their actual dose information on CTs conducted at their own institutions and see how their doses compare with other facilities,” said Smith-Bindman.

Smith-Bindman and her colleagues have several active grants to explore and advance this topic, including the UCDOSE collaboration, which stretches across the UC medical centers and the PEDS DOSE collaboration, a project funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which involves collecting and standardizing doses for CT scans across a large number of institutions, both in the UC system and outside of it.

“We are making the practical software tools we are developing as part of these grants widely available at the meeting so that anyone interested can get an audit showing how their data compare, and can complete a quality improvement project to improve their performance,” Smith-Bindman said. “Physicians who are participating in this dose assessment will receive American Board of Radiology maintenance of certification credit for doing so.”