A Brooklyn, New York hospital is under scrutiny for performing full-body X-rays of infants up until 2007. According to The New York Times, such X-rays, known as “babygrams” occurred at the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center. The use of such X-rays on infants was discredited long ago because the radiation can be extremely damaging to very young children.
In a babygram, no part of the body is shielded from the radiation emitted by an X-ray. In one case at Downstate, The New York Times said, one premature baby was irradiated head-to-toe, even though only one chest X-ray was ordered.
In premature infants, minimizing radiation exposure is especially important because they may require multiple radiological exams for problems like underdeveloped respiratory systems, the Times said.
The X-rays were stopped in 2007, but SUNY Downstate Medical Center never reported the procedures to state regulators. The state health examiner is now investigating, the Times said.
Officials at Downstate would not tell the Times how many inappropriate X-rays were done before the medical center finally stopped doing babygrams. It is also not known why technicians performed full-body X-rays on babies. But according to the Times, Dr. John Amodio, a Pediatric Radiologist t the hospital “surmised that because premature babies are especially fragile, technologists might have been afraid to touch them and ‘do what was really necessary’ to administer proper X-rays.”
As the Times points out, the errors at Downstate also raise serious questions about the competency of X-ray technicians, who are lightly regulated in may states. In New York, for example, technologists must be licensed and prove that they have passed a professional examination. But there were no continuing education requirements until last year.
For more than a decade, the American Society of Radiologic Technologists has lobbied Congress to pass a bill that would establish minimum educational and certification requirements for technologists, as well as medical physicists and people in 10 other occupations in medical imaging and radiation therapy, the Times said. While the bill â€“ known as the CARE Act – passed the Senate in 2006, there was not enough time to get it through the House of Representatives.
â€œI would think the public would be outraged that Congress was sitting on what could reduce their radiation exposure,â€ Dr. Fred Mettler, a radiologist who has investigated and written extensively about radiation accidents, told the Times.
As we’ve reported in the past, the amount of radiation Americans receive as a result of X-rays, CT scans and other medical imaging has grown six fold over the last couple of decades. Recently, researchers from the University of York and the National Cancer Institute published a study which concluded that X-Rays performed on women and babies could potentially increase the risk of developing childhood cancer. According to that study, published in the British Medical Journal, a 16 percent increase risk of childhood cancers was seen in the group of babies exposed in early infancy.