Ensuring a patient’s exposure to ionizing radiation is “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” (ALARA) while providing the highest quality diagnostic image requires a delicate balance and is the focus of radiation protection programs nationwide. ALARA is a universally accepted principle for limiting the dose to reduce the exposure to ionizing radiation. This tenet assumes that there is no “safe” dose of radiation and is an application of the Linear No Threshold Hypothesis.

Most scientists and standard-setting bodies feel that there is actually a safe dosage level of radiation. However, ALARA urges doses below the safe limits when reasonably possible. ALARA is not a defined dosage level but rather a goal. According to Plexus-IEM, a radiation-related consulting organization, “The ALARA radiation safety principle is based on the minimization of radiation doses and limiting the release of radioactive materials into the environment by employing all ‘reasonable methods’ ALARA is not only a sound radiation safety principle, but it is a regulatory requirement for all ‘radiation protection programs’.”

Time, Distance and Shielding

The ALARA goal is best achieved when taking three important elements into consideration: time, distance and shielding, notes University Medical. Reduce the time exposed when possible. Double the distance between your body and the source of radiation to cut the exposure by a factor of four. Use lead protections such as aprons, mobile shields, glasses and barriers.

RadSite’s commitment to ALARA

According to RadSite’s Chief Medical Officer, William Orrison, Jr., MD, MBA, limiting the radiation dose as much as is possible can reduce cancers by half. And yet the U.S. medical radiation exposure is six times what it was in 1980. Dr. Orrison maintains that medical diagnostic imaging in general is very helpful, and that, in fact, CT scans have prevented more unnecessary surgery than perhaps any technology ever invented. However, because CT scans deliver relatively high doses of ionizing radiation, Dr. Orrison urges administering only necessary tests and if X-rays or CT scans are necessary, getting the right test the first time.

RadSite believes that it is important to reduce dosage levels if possible. At the same time, it is important to maintain perspective. CTs do save lives and reduce unnecessary surgeries. In the best interest of patients, there is a compelling need for consistent quality standards for diagnostic imaging across the U.S.

Accreditation programs such as RadSite foster quality standards and provide education about best practices. One of the many services we provide are educational webinars. We recently hosted a webinar about patient safety and radiation. Click here to view the recording of the session, Patient Safety in Medical Imaging, hosted by Dr. Orrison, to learn about his – and RadSite’s – concern for proper, mindful dosage levels. Dr. Orrison also mentions organizations to join for radiation awareness, such as Image Gently, the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging that promotes worldwide efforts to improve safe and effective imaging care of children.

Final thoughts | Embracing ALARA to Minimize Radiation Exposure

Although the risk to patients and imaging from medical radiation is often considered low, the need to keep ALARA in mind is important. RadSite’s safety initiatives include a review of radiation safety policies and procedures as well as ensuring that radiation safety educational programs are in place.

Contact RadSite for more information about how we can help you achieve the ALARA goal. If your MIPPA accreditation is expiring, we can help with that as well.

Finally, did you attend RSNA? You can save an additional 15% off the application fee. Contact us to claim your RSNA discount code. But don’t wait. This offer expires on January 31, 2016.

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