Another large hospital is at the center of a scandal involving radiation overdoses from CT scans. According to The New York Times, the CT scan radiation overdoses occurred at Cabell Huntington Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia for more than a year, before the botched brain scans ended last November.
According to The New York Times, to make matters worse, officials at Cabell knew about some of the CT scan radiation overdoses for three months but did not disclosed the mistakes until the Times began its investigation and contacted the hospital for comment. At that time, Cabell issued a press release, but it has made no comment on the number of patients overdosed, why the mistakes occurred or whether any hospital employees were disciplined as a result, the Times said.
The overdoses at Cabell occurred on patients who underwent brain perfusion scans to detect strokes between October 9, 2009 to November 23, 2010. It’s not clear if the overdoses were caused by human error or a problem with CT equipment.
“This should not have happened and we are taking all necessary steps to prevent it from ever happening again,” Cabell administrators said in a written statement.
“Each patient we believe was affected has been personally contacted and has been sent a letter so that we can be certain they are fully informed and to recommend that they discuss this matter with their primary care physicians.”
The statement goes on to say that the CT scan radiation overdoses that occurred at Cabell posed “no immediate danger to the health of any of these patients,” and that side effects may include “temporary, localized hair loss and reddening of the scalp.”
However, overexposure to radiation can increase the risk of cancer. High levels of radiation from CT scans contributed to 29,000 new cancer cases and about 14,500 deaths in 2007, according to a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the Charleston Gazette reported.
According to The New York Times, the CT scan radiation overdoses occurred at Cabell the same month U.S. Food & Administration (FDA) had issued a warning to hospitals about such errors associated with brain perfusion scans. As we’ve reported previously, the FDA said at the time that it was investigating such cases at a half dozen hospitals around the country, including Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, Glendale Adventist Medical Center in California, and Alabama’s Huntsville Hospital. The agency ultimately found that at least 385 patients had received excessive radiation from CT brain perfusion scans.
According to the FDA alerts, machines involved in the botched CT scans, made by General Electric and Toshiba, had been wrongly calibrated and subjected patients who underwent the brain perfusion scans. The CT scan machines had been set at the higher level for 18 months, but went undetected. It wasn’t until patients began complaining of hair loss and skin reddening that the error was found.
While the FDA concluded that the CT scan radiation overdoses were not the result of equipment malfunctions, this past November, the agency asked the manufacturers of the machines to implement two recommendations designed to lessen the likelihood that patients undergoing the procedures could be exposed to radiation overdoses. The FDA said it had concluded that manufacturers should do a better job of training and educating those who use their equipment, and that the machines themselves could be made safer by warning operators that a dangerously high radiation dose is about to be administered.