Doing What's Right for Patients: NCH Uses Smaller Doses of Radiation to Make CT Scans Safer

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Experts from across the country are increasingly weighing in on how to reduce patient exposure to radiation from CT scanners. But three years ago, Northwest Community Hospital took proactive steps with CT scans at the hospital and its Schaumburg Imaging Center to reduce radiation exposure and increase patient safety. "We're doing what's right for the patient," said Dr. Allan Malmed, vice chairman of Radiology for the hospital, located in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.

Dr. Allan Malmed, vice chairman of Radiology, Northwest Community Hospital

If a patient needs diagnostic imaging and comes to Northwest Community Hospital or our Schaumburg Imaging Center, they can rest assured that the scan is as safe as it can be.

While diagnostic imaging is a necessary component of healthcare to pinpoint disease and uncover causes of illness, there are risks involved with the use of radiation on the body. Experts agree the less exposure the better, and Northwest Community Hospital is taking that philosophy to heart. NCH has taken proactive steps with CT scans at the hospital and its Schaumburg Imaging Center to reduce radiation exposure and increase patient safety.

"If a patient needs diagnostic imaging and comes to Northwest Community Hospital or our Schaumburg Imaging Center, they can rest assured that the scan is as safe as it can be," said Dr. Allan Malmed, vice chairman of Radiology. "We view ourselves as the protectors of the patient, and we take that responsibility very seriously."
Many technologically advanced hospitals like Northwest Community in Arlington Heights have the latest imaging equipment, but it's how a hospital uses the equipment that can make scans significantly safer. Whether doctors are ordering CT scans of the brain, abdomen, chest or cervical spine, patients at NCH face fewer risks.

Three proactive steps have increased patient safety during diagnostic imaging. The first is a smaller dose of radiation. Over the past three years, NCH radiologists discovered that using less radiation than the industry standard still results in an effective image for an accurate diagnosis. Therefore, the hospital's main CT scanners are set to use about 60 percent of the radiation level recommended by the American College of Radiology.

"The image doesn't have to look perfect for our physicians to get what they need," Dr. Malmed said. "If the end result is the same, we choose to lower the dose of radiation. It just makes good sense for our patients."

The second step NCH takes is consistently using shields to cover areas such as the eyes or breasts to keep body parts from being unnecessarily exposed to radiation. "The shields do make a difference, and we're adamant about using them across the board," said Gloria Grajdura, CT lead technologist at Northwest Community.

The third proactive step is narrowing the focus of the CT scan. Shrinking the targeted area ensures that a smaller portion of the body receives radiation. "We only want to scan what's absolutely necessary, and we take the time to narrow that window as much as we can," Grajdura said.

With all of these proactive measures in place, NCH considers itself the safest hospital for diagnostic imaging. "We know we're decreasing the likelihood of any of our patients developing future cancers due to hospital scans, and that's really what it's all about," Dr. Malmed said. "We're doing what's right for the patient."

NCH is also considering creating a "Radiology Passport," which would be a card that patients carry that details their imaging history to help doctors make more informed decisions before scheduling imaging services.

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Blaine Krage
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