On Oct. 8, the FDA issued an alert recommending hospitals review CT scan radiation levels after dangerous doses were detected at an unnamed hospital. The Los Angeles Times‘ Alan Zarembo took over from there, finding that serious radiation overdoses at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai hospital had prompted the warning.
Zarembo followed up with a series of stories on the radiation and its aftermath:
Heading into the CT scanner, photo by grewlike via Flickr.
Zarembo leads with a summary of what exactly went down at Cedars-Sinai:
More than 200 patients at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center were inappropriately exposed to high doses of radiation from CT brain scans used to diagnose strokes, hospital officials told The Times on Friday.
About 40% of the patients lost patches of hair as a result of the overdoses, a hospital spokesman said.
Even so, the overdoses went undetected for 18 months as patients received eight times the dose normally delivered in the procedure, raising questions about why it took Cedars-Sinai so long to notice that something was wrong.
Zarembo checks with experts who say the class-action suit filed on behalf of victims has little chance of success because it’s difficult to prove damages, especially since they may not develop for years.
A quick-hit story in which the hospital details exactly what they’ve done to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
4 patients say Cedars-Sinai did not tell them they had received a radiation overdose
Zarembo tracked down patients who said that, while they were contacted by the hospital concerning hair loss, they weren’t informed of radiation overdose or potential cancer risk.
Zarembo writes that the problem has been traced to a CT scanner reset in early 2008.
In one of the most remarkable moments, Zarembo writes that, before every single scan, technicians were shown a screen indicating, among many other things, the unusually high radiation level. The error was in plain sight the entire time.
Beginning in February 2008, each time a patient at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center received a CT brain perfusion scan– a state-of-the-art procedure used to diagnose strokes – the dose displayed would have been eight times higher than normal. No standard medical imaging procedure would use so much radiation, which one expert said is on par with the levels used to blast tumors.
Somebody should have noticed. But nobody did – everybody trusted the machines.
The New York Times‘ Walt Bogdanich added a broader perspective on the story, adding an additional case and subtly weaving it into the debate about the dangers of medical screening.