Greg Freiherr, Industry Consultant
Greg Freiherr, Industry Consultant

Greg Freiherr has reported on developments in radiology since 1983. He runs the consulting service, The Freiherr Group.

Blog | Greg Freiherr, Industry Consultant | February 26, 2014

Radiation: Out of Sight, Too Often Out of Mind

More than a decade has passed since I volunteered to ride a patient table into the maw of a Siemens’ CT. Then as now, I saw myself as a “doer,” not a “watcher,” experiencing as much as possible what I would write about.

A few years before my trip to Erlangen, Germany, that vision had put me in a SCAPE suit (http://arc.aiaa.org/doi/abs/10.2514/6.2003-6388) at the Kennedy Space Center. A few years later, it had me in a Signa 1.5T at GE. But, in 2004, the dashing figure of a 21st century journalist was not what the docs at the University of Erlangen saw. No. They saw someone who did not comprehend the hazard to which he was volunteering to be exposed. 

I had been writing about radiology since 1984. I should have known better, but did not. Unfortunately, the same could be said for much of this country, including the medical community. America has been riding the crest of ionizing radiation for much of the last three decades.

As a nation, our annual exposure to medical radiation nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008. CT alone accounted for 24 percent of all medical radiation exposure in the United States, according to a report issued in March 2009 by the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements.

Europe, that bastion of caution, may be better off. But it is far from where its medical leaders would like to be. While skimming abstracts for the upcoming European Congress of Radiology, I found that CT contributes 57 percent of Europeans’ exposure to medical ionizing radiation, according to a recent study of radiodiagnostic procedures in 36 European countries (“DDM2 Project Report on European Population Dose  Estimation,” http://ddmed.eu/_media/news:ddm2_project_report_population_dose_estimation_final_draft_for_web_page_28_jan_2013.pdf).

Aiming to do something about it, the European Society of Radiology (ESR) will launch a new initiative at ECR 2014, EuroSafe Imaging. Its global agendum is to promote the safe and appropriate use of medical imaging around the world.

ESR will cite the varied efforts that have sprung up, including the Image Gently campaign (by the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Image Imaging) and Image Wisely campaign (by the American College of Radiology, RSNA, American Association of Physicists in Medicine and American Society of Radiologic Technologists).

Heightened awareness is the key to future progress, they say. The Europeans have a step or two on us, as the Erlangen docs demonstrated a dozen years ago when they turned down my ill-considered offer.

It’s been a long time coming but here it is, ladies and gentlemen. Finally … Thanks.

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