FDA launches plan to reduce imaging radiation

2008 09 05 12 47 03 795 Radiation 70

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced an initiative to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure from computed tomography (CT), fluoroscopy, and nuclear medicine exams. The move is widely believed to be in response to reports of rising exposure to healthcare radiation in the U.S. population.

The FDA's three-prong initiative is intended to promote the safe use of healthcare imaging devices, support informed clinical decision-making, and increase patient awareness of imaging radiation. The FDA plans to use its existing authority to regulate imaging devices, and will also collaborate with other federal agencies and healthcare professional groups.

Pointing out that the amount of radiation Americans are exposed to from imaging has dramatically increased over the past 20 years, Jeffrey Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), stated that the goal of the FDA's initiative is to support the benefits associated with imaging while minimizing the risks.

In a press release, the FDA stated that "while there is some disagreement over the extent of the cancer risk associated with exposure to radiation from medical imaging, there is broad agreement that steps can and should be taken to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure." For example, the radiation dose associated with a CT abdomen scan is the same as the dose from approximately 400 chest x-rays. In comparison, a dental x-ray calls for approximately one-half the radiation dose of a chest x-ray.

The FDA intends to issue targeted requirements for manufacturers of CT and fluoroscopic devices to incorporate safeguards into scanner design, develop safer technologies, and provide appropriate training to support safe use by practitioners. The agency cited as examples a requirement that scanners display, record, and report equipment settings and radiation dose, as well as a requirement that medical devices be able to capture and transmit radiation dose information to a patient's electronic medical record and national dose registries.

The FDA also announced that it intends to hold a public meeting March 30-31 at its Silver Spring, MD, headquarters to solicit input on requirements to establish in connection with the initiative.

The FDA's initiative comes as the U.S. House of Representatives is preparing to hold hearings on the issue of medical radiation. The hearings were originally scheduled for February 10, but have been postponed due to snowy weather in Washington, DC.

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