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The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center will require all of its new CT and PET/CT scanners to incorporate technology that will automatically record a patient?s radiation exposure; the data collected will then be sent automatically to the patient?s electronic medical record (EMR). NIH researchers hope that the collected data will eventually lead to an accurate cancer assessment risk from medical imaging tests, such as CT and PET/CT.

David A. Bluemke, MD, director of radiology and imaging sciences at the Clinical Center, explained the reasoning behind the policy in a press announcement. He said, ?Since there is no epidemiologic data directly relating CT scanning to cancer deaths, scientific assessment must instead rely on the relationship between radiation exposure and death rates from Japanese atomic bomb survivors. While the legitimacy of this approach remains debated, radiologists as well as clinicians may rightfully be confused by the ongoing controversy. Patients seeking medical help may legitimately question the rationale of, and any risks from, diagnostic radiology tests.?

?Tracking Radiation Exposure from Diagnostic Imaging Devices at the NIH? by Ronald D. Neumann and David A. Bluemke describes the NIH?s new initiative in the February issue of the Journal of the American College of Radiology.

As a result of the new policy, any new equipment purchased by the NIH Clinical Center?s imaging program must be electronically compatible with NIH?s IT infrastructure and able to record the examination type, date, and radiation dose exposure, and then automatically send that data to the patient?s personal EMR.

Siemens? Biograph mCT.

The NIH clinical research center currently has five CT scanners, as well as two PET/CTs, and performs about 25,000 CT and 1,250 PET/CT scans a year. In addition, the NIH is developing software with vendors that it hopes can be applied to its existing scanners.

In e-mailed questions to Bluemke, Axis Imaging News asked whether these same radiation dose recording and EMR requirements would eventually be incorporated or retrofitted into all US hospital clinical devices. Bluemke said that once developed, these modifications could be immediately applied to all other devices of the same type, at all institutions. However, he noted that older existing devices with older software may not have the capability of being retrofitted.

Bluemke added in the e-mail, ?It would be very helpful to the field of radiology if other institutions had similar policies for the purchase of new equipment. This would speed the implementation and pressure on the manufacturers.?

Currently, the NIH is not immediately purchasing equipment from all possible manufacturers, and consequently, the pressure on vendors is somewhat low. However, Bluemke points out that once the radiation recording and EMR archiving technology is developed for the NIH, manufacturers can, of course, offer the same technology to other facilities.

Bluemke also said that wider use and demand for medical imaging radiation recording technology will ultimately benefit individuals, as well as provide more data to researchers.

He wrote, ?In the short term, recording radiation doses will allow patients to have better access to their own personal ?radiation record? that is recommended by the ACR. In the longer term (10 years), it is feasible that radiation doses in the United States may be measured for a large patient population.?

?Tor Valenza