On August 24, 2011, The Joint Commission (TJC) issued a Sentinel Event Alert titled “Radiation Risks of Diagnostic Imaging.” Joint Commission Sentinel Event Alerts are issued to describe underlying causes of these sentinel events and to suggest steps to prevent occurrences in the future.

This alert indicates general agreement that “care should be taken to weigh the medical necessity of a given level of radiation exposure against the risks, and that steps should be taken to eliminate avoidable exposure to radiation.”

While the American College of Radiology (ACR) agrees with that statement, the alert also indicates that the CMS January 2012 requirement for accreditation of CT, MRI, and PET was promulgated “as a result of the potential dangers associated with ionizing radiation.” The ACR, a sponsor of the legislation requiring this accreditation, considers this statement inaccurate. The ACR believes that the legislation is aimed primarily at ensuring a high level of quality for these modalities, including inspection and evaluation of image quality. In addition, the college argues that MRI, a component of the accreditation requirement, produces no ionizing radiation.

The ACR notes a second inaccuracy in the statement. The alert says that the ACR launched its National Radiology Data Registry (NRDR) in May. In fact, NRDR has been in existence since 2008.