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Botched CT Scans at Cedars-Sinai Prompt Lawsuit

Oct 21, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP A patient who received a radiation overdose from a  CT brain scan at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has filed a class action lawsuit against the hospital.  The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, also names GE Healthcare as a defendant.

Last week, we reported that officials at Cedars-Sinai confirmed that 206 patients mistakenly received eight times the regular dose of radiation during CT brain scans, which are used to diagnose strokes.  The machine at Cedars-Sinai had been set at the higher level since February 2008,, but the mistake had not been detected for 18 months. According to the Medical Center, the overdoses were discovered in August, when a patient reported hair loss.

It is not yet known what led to the overdoses at Cedars-Sinai. They may have been the result a device malfunction, or appropriate procedures may not have been followed. In an alert posted on its Web site, the  Food & Drug Administration (FDA) said it was concerned that the radiation overdosing may reflect more widespread problems with CT quality assurance programs, and that the problem could go undetected and unreported, putting patients at increased risk for long-term radiation effects. The agency advised every facility performing CT imaging to review its CT protocols and be aware of the dose indices normally displayed on the control panel.

The Cedars-Sinai radiation overdose class action lawsuit includes all individuals who received a CT brain perfusion scan at Cedars Sinai Medical Center from February 2008 through August 2009. It also includes anyone who received such a scan that utilized CT image machines manufactured by GE Healthcare, Inc. and GE Healthcare Technologies at any medical facility during the two year period preceding the suit.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Trevor Rees, one of the 206 patients subjected to a radiation overdose at Cedars-Sinai.  Rees received his CT scan in December 2008, and experienced hair loss in the weeks following the procedure, as well as red and flaky skin on his face and scalp.  However, the lawsuit claims he only heard of the botched CT scans at Cedars-Sinai through media reports.  Rees did receive a phone call from  hospital officials last month, but says  he was only asked if he had experienced any side effects following his scan.  Rees claims he was not told the real reason for the call.

The lawsuit claims Cedars-Sinai staff and the scanner's manufacturer, General Electric Healthcare, were negligent in performing the scans.  The suit also alleges medical malpractice, product liability and breach of warranty. It seeks general and economic damages.

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